Armstrong a Name to Know for Tribe Bullpen
Bob Toth | On 19, Nov 2015
One of the offseason questions the Cleveland Indians need to address is who will help make up the relief corps for the coming season.
One potential answer to that looming question is right-hander Shawn Armstrong, one of the names that Tribe fans may need to know for the years to come.
Armstrong joined the Indians organization in 2011 when the club selected him in the 18th round of the June Amateur Draft out of East Carolina University. He had previously been selected out of high school in 2008 by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round.
He got into one game of action with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2011 before putting together a successful season at three levels in 2012, working for Lake County, Carolina, and Akron while posting a combined 2-3 record with a 1.60 ERA in 45 games.
The numbers bloated a little in 2013 as he spent time in the Arizona Rookie League and with the Aeros, posting a 2-3 mark with a 4.14 ERA in 33 games. Despite the struggles, which included a 1.51 WHIP, he continued to improve upon his strikeout rate.
In 2014, he was back and strong, appearing in 49 games and finishing the year 6-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 15 saves between Akron and Columbus. He struggled in his first appearance at the Triple-A level, giving up three runs on four hits with three walks in five innings of five games. The Indians selected his contract following the season, adding him to the 40-man roster for the 2015 season.
He began last season with the Clippers and appeared in 46 games there, saving 16 and going 1-2 with a 2.72 ERA. He struck out 80 batters in 49 2/3 innings, an incredible rate of 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
He got the call to Cleveland in early August. He nearly missed that call as he was out to dinner with his girlfriend and a silenced phone at the time of the call from his Columbus manager Chris Tremie.
He made an appearance to close out the Tribe’s 17-4 win on August 8th and struck out two Minnesota batters in his debut. He appeared against on August 13th against the New York Yankees and struck out two more with a walk in an inning and two-thirds. He was optioned back to Columbus on the 15th as the team needed a starting pitcher to throw for Cody Anderson, who had been placed on the disabled list to create the original roster spot for Armstrong. Josh Tomlin was recalled to take the 25-year-old reliever’s place.
He returned to the Indians when rosters expanded on September 1st and appeared in six more games down the stretch. All but one of the appearances was late in a game, but most were in contests already fairly decided on the scoreboard. He struck out at least one batter in seven of his eight outings for the year and did not allow a run until his final two appearances, when he gave up solo runs in each.
He worked an even four innings against lefties and four against righties. He gave up a single and double to the left-handers he faced with six strikeouts and a walk, limiting them to a .143 average. Righties had one more hit in an equal number of plate appearances, including a solo home run. He worked primarily at Progressive Field, allowing a .150 batting average in six innings. He did not allow a base runner when facing opponents with runners in scoring position.
For the future, Armstrong projects as a middle relief arm with some setup potential down the road. Command and consistency have been issues, but he has the stuff to be a high strikeout reliever. He will hover in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball and can hit the high 90s on occasion. He complements the pitch with a slider/cutter, but has worked on both a curveball and changeup in the past. He has been compared favorably to Cody Allen in the past.
He has dealt with a labrum injury during his high school and college days and a hand injury while in the minors, but has otherwise been able to develop on time. He is considered strong with an improving command and a history of keeping the ball in the park.
If Armstrong is not in the bullpen to start the season, he will be primed and ready in Columbus as one of the first men up when the team needs a fresh arm. As anyone who has watched baseball knows, that time generally comes quickly.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images