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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | July 23, 2014

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Bullpen Mafia Initiation Continues Into Second Half of Camp

By Christian Petrila

The 2011 Indians bullpen was notoriously effective. The “Bullpen Mafia” became well-known and revered throughout the Majors. Most of the “Mafia” will still be intact for 2012, but there are two openings that anyone could come in and swipe.

A candidate that possibly has a leg up on the competition is Frank Herrmann. Last year, Herrmann was a long reliever alongside Chad Durbin. Both Durbin and Herrmann sported ERAs over five. Herrmann’s was 5.11 through 56.1 innings. He will not only need to reduce the number of runs he is allowing, but he also needs to limit the hits. Last year, he allowed 71 hits. Spring has not been kind to Herrmann thus far. He has an ERA of 6.43 through seven innings of work. He also hasn’t been limiting the hits, allowing 11 through those seven innings.

Another candidate is Nick Hagadone. Hagadone is a lefty reliever who made his Major League debut last year during the September call-ups. He allowed five earned runs over 11 innings, resulting in a 4.09 ERA. However, he only allowed four hits while striking out 11. His numbers so far this spring are equally, if not even more impressive. Through seven innings, he has an impressive ERA of 1.29 with five strikeouts. He is allowing opponents an average of one hit per inning, but he has done a good job of preventing teams from capitalizing.

One of the overlooked names the Indians signed this offseason is veteran reliever Jeremy Accardo. He has a career ERA of 4.22 through 247.1 career innings with the Giants, Blue Jays, and Orioles. His best season was in 2007 with the Blue Jays. He was their closer and recorded 30 saves while keeping his ERA at 2.14. However, he is coming off of what is possibly his worst career season. He had a 5.73 ERA in 37.2 innings in 2011 withBaltimore. To put it simply, he wasn’t very effective. He gave up more runs (24) than he struck out batters (23). However, he is looking for redemption and so far this spring, he is having success. He has a 1.80 ERA through five innings.

Chen Lee is a longshot since he has no Major League experience, but it shouldn’t be considered a surprise if he makes the club out of Spring Training. Lee won the Bob Feller award in 2011, which honors the Indians’ Minor League pitcher of the year. He definitely deserved it too, having an ERA of 2.40 through 71.1 innings betweenAkronandColumbus. He also struck out an astonishing 99 batters. So far this spring, he is sporting a 3.00 ERA through six innings. He is also keeping up his strikeout numbers, fanning six thus far.

After these four competitors, it has been a disappointing spring for pretty much everyone else going for a coveted bullpen spot. Dan Wheeler, considered by many to be a favorite for one of the spots, is absolutely getting rocked this spring. His ERA is 12.00 through only six innings. Chris Ray, once the centerpiece ofBaltimore’s bullpen, isn’t faring much better. Through seven innings, his ERA is 12.86. Robinson Tejeda was signed in case there were bullpen troubles, but he has been battling the injury bug so far this spring, which has limited his time. He has only pitched one inning, allowing one run.

A rumor came across a few days ago that the Indians had interest in 33-year old Mike Gonzalez. That means that the Indians either aren’t comfortable with the injuries the Perezes have sustained or that they are discouraged by the lack of results the bullpen candidates have provided. It wouldn’t be a bad signing at all. Although he struggled last season after being acquired byTexas, his career ERA is still under three. Plus, he can provide veteran leadership as Durbin did last season.

My honest guess is that Dan Wheeler rights the ship by the end of spring and takes one of the two spots, while the other spot goes to Nick Hagadone. It’s one of those entertaining cases of the rook and the vet. However, if the Indians were to sign someone like Mike Gonzalez, it would make the bullpen race much more interesting than it already is.

Photo: Associated Press

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