Indians Add a Pair of Pitchers, Signing Belisle and Claiming Taylor

Even a week and a half after pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear, Arizona, for the start of the Cleveland Indians’ spring training festivities, new faces continue to arrive to camp.

The Indians announced a pair of right-handed roster additions on Sunday, as the club signed free agent Matt Belisle and claimed Ben Taylor off of waivers from the Boston Red Sox.

To create room on the 40-man roster for Taylor, the Indians announced that right-hander Cody Anderson had been placed on the 60-day disabled list as he continues his return from Tommy John surgery early last year. He is in camp with the club working his way back from the procedure.

Belisle, 37, joins the Tribe’s bullpen mix on a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to Arizona. He spent last season in Minnesota with the Twins and proved to be an important piece in their suspect bullpen. He stepped into the closer’s role for the club, saving nine games in 14 opportunities, after the team traded Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. He went 2-2 in 62 appearances with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.

He could earn $1.5 million if he makes the Indians out of spring training, according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that there is another $1.75 million available in bonus incentives for Belisle.

Belisle has spent parts of 14 seasons in the Majors. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1998 and traded to Cincinnati in 2003. He made his big league debut for the Reds that season and would return to the Show in 2005. He bounced back and forth between the Reds and their farm clubs through the 2008 season before signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent in 2009. He put together his best big league seasons in Denver and began to work exclusively as a reliever, frequently appearing at the top of the leaderboard in the National League for appearances. He worked in 76 games in 2010, 74 in 2011 (while earning ten wins), and led all of baseball with 80 appearances in 2012.

Taylor – Leon Halip/Getty Images

He pitched in 34 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015 and put up the best ERA of his career in 2016 with the Washington Nationals, when he posted a 1.76 mark with a 1.09 WHIP in 40 games.

Taylor was claimed off of waivers by the Indians on Sunday after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox last Sunday to make room on the roster for the return of Eduardo Nunez.

Taylor, who turned 25 in November, had spent his entire professional career in the Red Sox organization. A seventh rounder in the 2015 draft out of the University of South Alabama, he has worked sparingly over the last three years, logging 64 games at the minor league level and 14 games with the Red Sox during his big league debut last year.

Taylor began his pro career as a starter, but transitioned into the bullpen in 2016, appearing in 36 games (three starts) with eight saves, a 1-2 record, a 2.96 ERA, and a 1.08 WHIP between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He made Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training last season, skipping over the Triple-A level temporarily, but he bounced around several times throughout the season with several trips to the minors and a pair of trips to the disabled list (from May 28 to June 25 with right elbow inflammation and again from July 26 to August 30 with a left intercostal strain). He worked his way back into minor league action before Triple-A Pawtucket’s schedule ended for the year, but he was not among the players recalled by the Red Sox in September.

Taylor made 14 appearances in total for the Red Sox in 2017, posting an 0-1 record with one save, a 5.19 ERA, and a 1.67 WHIP in 17 1/3 innings. His numbers were a little more promising in the minors, where he earned a 2.30 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 14 games (15 2/3 innings).

Taylor becomes a candidate to watch for the Indians this season as he comes to the club with a pair of minor league options available, potentially providing manager Terry Francona with some needed flexibility in his bullpen with an arm to shuttle back and forth to Triple-A Columbus to artificially expand his bullpen depth. Taylor’s addition also reunites him with his pitching coach in Boston last year, Carl Willis, who joined the Indians in the offseason to replace Mickey Callaway after Cleveland’s successful pitching coach took the managerial job with the New York Mets. Willis was allowed to look for a new job after Boston fired its manager, John Farrell, following the 2017 season.

Both pitchers will join a long list of candidates for the Indians bullpen in 2018, as Francona and his staff look to replace the innings lost in the free agent departures of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith.

Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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