There are two probable spots open for the 2012 bullpen and a plethora of possible pitchers to fill them. Since we are about two weeks into Spring Training, it seems like a good time to discuss the options.
The 2012 bullpen will look fairly similar to the 2011 version with the exception of two pitchers. Chad Durbin left the team in free agency and Frank Herrmann‘s spot is up for grabs as well, although he could win it back with a strong Spring. To this point, Herrmann has thrown the most of any Indians relief pitcher and it doesn’t look good. In 6 innings through 4 games he has allowed 10 hits and 5 runs. He does have a good strikeout to walk ratio of 6-1, but it doesn’t matter if every out is a strikeout when allow almost a run per inning.
Jeremy Accardo, Hector Ambriz and Nick Hagadone are also in the running for either spot and currently hold identical 1.80 ERAs. Each pitcher has allowed a single run in exactly 5 innings pitched. Ambriz has been especially effective, only allowing two hits and striking out four. Hagadone has the highest ceiling of these three players, but is the least likely to make the team initially due to his age and the availability of minor league options.
Former AL East closers Chris Ray and Dan Wheeler have not fared so well in Cactus League play thus far, each with ERAs above 10.00. Both pitchers accepted Spring invites from the Tribe in attempt to regain their former glory. Even though their is no chance of them closing on a team with Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano, they could still take that Chad Durbin role of veteran pitcher on this team. They will have to shape up soon however, as each pitcher has allowed 10 hits already this Spring in a combined 9 innings pitched.
The last player to mention is Corey Kluber, who has an outside chance of making the team this year. He finished the season on the Indians last year, but more than likely will be the first player cut of the group listed here. The Indians may pitch him more often as the Spring progresses, but to this point he has only thrown 3 innings and is yet to allow an earned run. He has walked 1 and struck out two.
At this point in the Spring, Accardo and Ambriz seem to be the front-runners with Herrmann and Hagadone waiting in the wings in case something happens. Ambriz has not pitched in the Majors since 2010 when he had a 5.59 ERA for the Indians, but the team seems willing to give him a second shot. Accardo had a bad season last year for Baltimore, but was once a strong closer, earning 30 saves with the Blue Jays in 2007. If the Indians decide not to go with the young guns, he wouldn’t be the worst choice they could make.
Nick Hagadone throws a pitch against the Diamondbacks in Spring Training action.