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Otero on Long List of Tribe’s Bullpen Options

Otero on Long List of Tribe’s Bullpen Options

| On 27, Feb 2016

While the Cleveland Indians spent a lot of time looking at its bullpen situation for the coming season, the team made several free agent acquisitions to bolster their options. They also quietly made the December purchase of right-handed reliever Dan Otero from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Otero is a four-year Major League veteran who turned 31 last Friday. He had a good half-season in 2013 and a great one in the Oakland bullpen in 2014, but crashed back down to Earth last season, going 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 41 appearances.

Otero was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 21st round of the 2007 draft and debuted with the club in 2012. He was claimed off of waivers at the end of the 2013 spring training by the New York Yankees, who then lost him in a waiver claim by Oakland the next day. He had spent the last three seasons with the club.

His 2015 season got off to a bad start and continued throughout the year, leading to four separate trips to Triple-A Nashville over the course of regular season play. While the combined efforts of his stays with the Sounds were good (1.95 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 15 games), he could not bring the same results to the Athletics.

He pitched in 23 games from April through the first week of June for the A’s, around a one game, five day demotion at the end of April. He went 2-3 with a blown save and two holds in that span, but runs and hits were coming frequently. He allowed 31 hits and five walks in 24 1/3 innings (1.48 WHIP) while allowing the opposition to bat .316. It led to 17 earned runs and a 6.29 ERA, including seven runs in his final two appearances before a second trip to Nashville.

In his second stint with the Sounds, he allowed just one run over eight games and 15 1/3 innings and was back with the parent club after the All-Star break. He allowed four runs in six outings and was back in AAA for another week and a half stretch. He would be recalled briefly in the middle of the month, but would conclude the month playing for Nashville. He rejoined the A’s as a September call-up when the rosters expanded.

Upon his return, he was not used in many high pressure situations, as the team was 1-10 over his eleven September appearances. He allowed single earned runs in each of his first four games back and two more to Houston on the 19th. Wildness may not have been an issue, as he ended the season with 16 straight appearances (20 total innings) without a walk, but opposing hitters found their way on base putting bat to ball, batting .349 in that same stretch of play.

His platoon splits for last season show a glaring increase in his numbers against right-handed hitters. After allowing a .219 average to them in 2014, they hit .336 off of him the next season. It resulted in the same number of runs scored (23), but they were able to do that in 59 fewer at bats over 28 less games. His on base plus slugging allowed jumped from .539 to .887 and he allowed a career-high four homers to right-handers.

Formerly known as a ground ball specialist in the A’s bullpen and once referred to as the “glue of the bullpen” by Oakland closer Sean Doolittle, the spike in home runs was a surprise. He allowed seven on the year after allowing just four in his first three MLB seasons. He also struggled with his best pitch, the sinker, throughout the year, which helped to contribute to falling six days short of achieving Super Two status and gaining an extra season of arbitration.

Early in November and in a roster crunch with prospects due to be added to the 40-man roster within the month and with seven players coming off of the 60-day disabled list who were also in need of places on the 40-man, Otero was placed on waivers to create room. The Philadelphia Phillies, the first team eligible to do so, claimed him with the first move made by new general manager Matt Klentak.

“Unfortunately, Dan’s season didn’t go the way he or we hoped, and at this point of the year, we’re at the point where we have got to make some decisions,” said A’s general manager David Forst following the move in a story on SFGate.com. “Dan was a critical part of two playoff teams and we’re very appreciative of the job he did here.”

The Indians acquired him from the Phillies on December 18th for unknown cash considerations and designated outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for their new reliever.

Otero’s addition added his name to what has become a very long list of relief candidates for a small handful of jobs in the Indians’ bullpen. Three to four spots may be available, depending on how manager Terry Francona constructs his bench and bullpen in the early going. Four off days in April could play a role in that decision, as will the losses of two of the three outfielders the Tribe had hoped to start the season with.

Otero has shown an ability to be a force on a pitching staff and will look to work his way back to the results that had him as one of the more readily used and reliable relief arms during the 2014 season.

Photo: Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports