The Cleveland Indians announced Monday afternoon that the club had come to terms with free agent reliever Craig Stammen on a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to spring training.
Stammen, a right-handed reliever, had spent his entire career in the Washington Nationals organization. The 31-year-old addition by the Tribe and Ohio native will turn 32 in March.
Stammen began his career as a starter in the nation’s capital but turned to relief work in 2010. He had become a steady and reliable relief option for the Nationals before running into his first injury last season. He appeared in five games, working four scoreless innings and giving up a pair of hits and three walks while striking out three batters in April before landing on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his Major League career. He later had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm and missed the remainder of the year.
After the season and due to potentially receive a raise to his previous $2.25 million contract for the 2015 season, Stammen was non-tendered by the Nationals after failing to come to a new deal.
“It’s unfortunate. I’m definitely disappointed that I’m not going to have a chance to pitch for the Washington Nationals next year,” said Stammen in a December 3, 2015, story in the Washington Post. “I feel extremely healthy. I’ve been throwing and I’m ready to roll. I’m excited to start a new chapter in my baseball career and get ready to pitch and compete for a championship with another team.”
He was noted as being “surprised” that manager Matt Williams was fired after the season and expressed disappointment that the team’s strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz, assistant athletic trainer Steve Gober, and pitching coach Steve McCatty were also let go. McCatty is now the pitching coach for the Class-A Lake County Captains in the Indians farm system.
“I have nothing but good things to say about Cat,” said Stamen following the moves in a story on PressboxDC.com. “It is easy to put blame on other people [other than the players].”
Stammen, born in North Star, Ohio, attended Versailles High School in Versailles, Ohio, before playing at the University of Dayton. He was selected by Washington in the 12th round of the 2005 draft and made his debut with the club as a starter on May 21, 2009.
He pitched with mixed results as a starter for parts of his first two seasons before entering consistent relief work. He was 1-1 with a 0.87 ERA in seven games for the club in 2011 and followed it with a 6-1 record and 2.34 ERA in 59 games in 2012 and a 7-6 record with a 2.76 ERA in 55 games in 2013. In his last full season of work, he was 4-5 with a 3.84 ERA over 49 outings.
According to Fangraphs.com, Stammen has used a variety of pitches throughout his career, but has stuck with a two-seamer in the low 90’s, slider, and knuckle-curve over the last several seasons.
Stammen enters into a bullpen mix headlined by returning pieces Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister, Jeff Manship, Austin Adams, and Shawn Armstrong from the right side and Kyle Crockett and Giovanni Soto from the left. The club has brought in right-handers Dan Otero, Joba Chamberlain, and Felipe Paulino in the offseason, as well as left-handers Joe Thatcher, Ross Detwiler, and Tom Gorzelanny.
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