The 2013 Indians bullpen will be the most similar section of the team to the past few seasons with just a couple changes going into the next season. The backbone will be exactly the same as past seasons with Chris Perez staying in the closers role despite repeated trade rumors. Looking back on 2012, it seems that Perez's frustrations with Manny Acta's managing style during their losing streak were the main reasons for his media blow-ups. New manager Terry Francona has had experience with his own crazy closer, Jonathan Papelbon, so he is at least more qualified to deal with Perez. The Michael Bourne signing meant a lot to Perez, who said it made him feel like the Indians were a big market club. One of his biggest issues in 2012 was that the Indians didn't add anybody at the trade deadline and he should be extremely happy with the Indians offseason.
The men responsible for maintaining leads for Perez to save will be the same as well with Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith responsible for the 7th and 8th innings. Pestano set the Indians record for single season holds (36) last year and has recorded at least 20 with an ERA under 2.60 in each of his first two seasons. Smith has pitched at almost the same level as Pestano, pitching three years for the Tribe and recording 16 or more holds each year with an ERA under 3.00 the past two seasons. Both pitchers have been incredibly solid and haven't shown any signs that this year will be any different.
One of the big changes this season will be the new left hander as for the first time since 2006, the main match-up LHP will not be Tony Sipp or Rafael Perez. This year the top choice for the Tribe will be Nick Hagadone who made his debut in 2012 before breaking his hand and ending his season. There really aren't any other good options for the Indians, but Scott Kazmir and David Huff are both be in camp trying to win starting jobs and could technically be moved into short inning roles if necessary. Scott Barnes is another option that was used some in 2012, but he is obviously not on the same level as Hagadone.
Upstart right hander Cody Allen looks to be the last remainder from 2012. The 2011 draft pick was amazing in his first professional season, not allowing a single run until his thirteenth appearance. Allen benefited from the strong back end of the bullpen and the lack of close games as he never really had to pitch in any high intensity situations. After a half season in the Majors, however, that will likely change this year as he will certainly see more time in close games as he matures as a pitcher.
The last two places in the bullpen are unknown as of yet and will likely be pitchers that were not in the bullpen last season. Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw look to be the front runners, both coming from the Diamondbacks in the trade that sent away Tony Sipp (along with Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald). Albers had a great 2012, split between Boston and Arizona. He pitched a combined 60 innings and maintained an ERA of 2.39, his best season since converting to reliever in 2008. Shaw is a little younger than Albers, but also had a great season last year for Arizona, and has combined for a 3.18 ERA over 87.2 innings over his first two seasons. With these two relievers in the fold along with Allen and Hagadone improving after their first pro seasons the 2013 bullpen could be even better than last season.
In addition to those mentioned above, there are a few other players that could see time in the Indians pen this year. Joe Martinez, Fernando Nieve, Jerry Gil, Edward Paredes and Blake Wood are all minor league pitchers that were signed (or invited to Spring Training) this offseason and will get a chance to compete for a place in the pen during this Spring. Matt Capps and Rich Hill signed late in the offseason and have a slightly better chance at making the team that those others. Frank Herrmann and Corey Kluber pitchers that remain on the 40 man roster from previous seasons, but are unlikely to make the team with the added talent this year.
The last type of player is the kind to get excited about, the young pitchers that are almost ready for the big leagues. Chen Lee, Danny Salazar, Trey Haley, Eric Berger, Cole Cook and T.J. House all pitched well in the upper levels of the minors last season and could appear in games in 2013. While none of them are likely to break camp with the team, don't be surprised to see one or two as the season drags on with it's typical struggles and injuries. At a minimum, Lee, Berger and House will almost certainly join the team as September call-ups if they are not needed earlier. Berger and House are both considered starting pitchers, but will likely spend some time in the bullpen first like Jeanmar Gomez has over the past two seasons.
The Indians bullpen is definitely something to get excited about as it looks to be better than even the great bullpens of 2011 or 2007. The combination of a dominant closer with at least three solid set-up men is something the Indians haven't had in years. This is the first season in a long time that the Indians won't waste a spot in the bullpen with a has been like Jeremy Accardo or Chad Durbin. There should be no waste pitchers in 2013 who can only be used in games that were lost in the early innings. Of course there is always the randomness inherent in relief pitching and someone is likely to fall off after last year, but things couldn't be set up much better than they are right now. It will be up to the offense and the rotation to give the Indians the lead, but the certainly shouldn't have to worry about someone blowing it once they do.
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