The Indians added another arm to the bullpen mix with their first addition of 2019, signing free agent right-hander Justin Grimm to a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training in Goodyear, Arizona, next month.
Grimm, 30, spent last season between the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners organizations, with a pair of trips to the Major League Baseball disabled list.
It was a tough go for Grimm in 2018 as he made his fewest number of appearances since his rookie campaign with the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was limited to 21 games (16 with the Royals and 5 with the Mariners) and compiled a 1-3 record with a 10.38 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP. He dealt with lower back stiffness in late April that knocked him out for more than a month and a half, and two weeks after returning to the MLB club, he was back on the DL with right shoulder impingement syndrome. He was given his release on July 7 after going 1-3 with a 13.50 ERA and a 2.45 WHIP over his 16 games and 12 2/3 innings in Kansas City.
He signed a minor league deal with the Mariners later in the month and headed to Triple-A Tacoma and found far greater success there. He worked in ten games, earned a win, and in his eleven innings of work limited opponents with a 1.64 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Far more encouraging were the dramatic changes to his per-nine rates, as he boasted a 13.9 K/9 and a 1.6 BB/9 rate there after posting 5.7 and 9.9 marks respectively with the Royals.
Grimm returned to the Majors on September 1 when rosters expanded and got into five games for Seattle before the close of the campaign. He allowed a run on two hits in four and two-thirds innings, striking out three and walking none (1.93 ERA and 0.43 WHIP).
The Indians gamble on Grimm with the hopes that his time with the Mariners fixed his mound troubles. His two and a half months in the Pacific Northwest yielded far greater results than he had produced earlier in the season or even over the previous two seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
Grimm is entering his ninth season of professional baseball since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft by the Texas Rangers out of the University of Georgia. He debuted in a quick five-game look with the Rangers in 2012 and was 7-7 in 17 starts for Texas to begin 2013 when he was dealt to the Cubs before the trade deadline as part of the five-player Matt Garza deal.
With the Cubs organization, he continued working as a starter in the minors but did appear in ten games in relief for the Cubs that season. He received a heavy workload in 2014, working in 73 games while posting a 3.78 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He was solid again for Chicago the following season, producing career-bests with a 1.99 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while earning his first three professional saves and showing a 12.1 K/9 rate in 62 appearances.
He was a part of the Cubs’ World Series winning squad against the Indians in 2016, appearing in 68 games during the regular season (2-1, 4.10 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) and pitching in the postseason, including three times against Cleveland. His numbers plumped significantly in 2017, when he went 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP, seeing a decrease in strikeout frequency, an increase in walks, and a significant jump in homers allowed.
Grimm is the seventh player added by the Indians this offseason on a minor league deal with a spring training invitation, joining fellow pitchers James Hoyt, Brooks Pounders, and Josh D. Smith, infielder Mike Freeman, and outfielders Brandon Barnes and Trayce Thompson.
The Indians have had a good run of finding bullpen arm reclamation projects in recent years, and Grimm hopes to earn a spot in the team’s thin relief corps with a strong showing in spring camp.
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