The Cleveland Indians and reliever Matt Belisle have reunited on a minor league deal, the team announced on Wednesday.
Belisle was a late addition to the Tribe roster in the spring, joining the club on a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to Cactus League play. He won a bullpen job out of camp, but he was designated for assignment by the Indians on May 2 after appearing in eight games for the Tribe. He was granted his free agency after declining his outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus following passing through waivers unclaimed.
Due to his many years of service time, Belisle was able to forgo his minor league outright and checked out the free agent market, looking for an opportunity with one of the other 29 teams. But nearing the age of 38 and with some rough numbers in his limited use this season, Belisle will return to the Indians and wait for a return call at Triple-A Columbus.
Cleveland’s pitching needs are, at this point, well documented this season and a return to the Majors seems almost a certainty with the revolving door approach that the front office has had to implement due to injuries and ineffectiveness from the staff so far this season. Nick Goody is on the 10-day disabled list and Andrew Miller only recently returned from his stint, with mixed results so far. The rest of the staff has combined to serve as the worst bullpen in all of baseball while the club has used a total of 14 different pitchers in relief this year (the Indians used a total of 17 relievers in all of 2017).
Belisle started the season in good shape, working four scoreless innings of one-hit baseball in his first three relief appearances. His next three were far less efficient, as he was hit hard for three runs on three hits in an inning and one-third against Toronto on April 13 and took the blown save in San Juan during the Indians’ 16-inning marathon with the Minnesota Twins on April 18, giving up a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the 14th inning. He followed that up with another two runs allowed in an inning of work against the Chicago Cubs on April 24.
His final two appearances were more encouraging. He worked two and one-third innings against Seattle on April 28 and followed it up with a scoreless inning on May 1 against the Texas Rangers, striking out a batter in each outing. Despite the better results, the bullpen was overworked and in need of help, and he became the odd man out to create room on the 25- and 40-man rosters for the next candidate from Columbus.
Belisle was a second round pick in the 1998 draft by the Atlanta Braves. He has pitched in parts of 15 big league seasons since 2003, spending time with the Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, and Minnesota Twins.
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