Indians Add Russell to Bullpen Depth on a Minor League Deal
Bob Toth | On 14, Feb 2017
Pitchers and catchers have reported to their spring homes, but the Cleveland Indians are still shopping as they added veteran left-hander James Russell on a minor league deal on Monday.
Russell, a seven-year Major League veteran and the son of former big league reliever and one-time Indian Jeff Russell, spent last season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. His deal is pending a physical and is believed to include a non-roster invitation to spring camp.
The 31-year-old Cincinnati native was drafted in the 14th round of the 2007 draft by the Chicago Cubs. He made his Major League debut in 2010 and spent his first five big league seasons in their bullpen, appearing in as many as 77 games in the 2012 season. He was later traded at the 2014 trade deadline with Emilio Bonifacio and cash to the Atlanta Braves for a minor leaguer.
He worked in 22 outings for the Braves but was cut at the end of spring training the following season and returned to the Cubs on a free agent deal at the start of the 2015 season. He pitched in nine games at Triple-A Iowa and 49 more games for the Cubs that season, going 0-2 with a 5.29 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in the Majors before hitting free agency again and signing with the Phillies.
He started the season in the Philadelphia bullpen and made seven appearances in April before he was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after clearing waivers. He made 13 starts and 16 relief appearances for the IronPigs, going 3-5 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He did not earn a decision for the Phillies in his limited action, posting an 18.69 ERA and a 3.23 WHIP with five walks and two homers allowed in four and one-third innings of work for the parent club.
Russell is expected to compete for one of the available spots in the Indians bullpen and adds some left-handed relief depth behind Andrew Miller and Boone Logan. Other left-handers fighting for bullpen spots in Goodyear for the Indians include starters Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando, Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner from Philadelphia, offseason waiver claim Tim Cooney from St. Louis, minor leaguer and former Seattle 2013 draft pick Tyler Olson, and three-year Indians reliever Kyle Crockett. The addition of Russell will bring the Indians’ non-roster camp invitee list to 19 players.
His father was a member of the Indians bullpen in 1994, taking the mound in 13 games in relief while earning five saves after being acquired by the club from the Boston Red Sox on July 1 that season for pitchers Steve Farr and Chris Nabholz.
Photo: David Banks/Getty Images