CLEVELAND -- The Indians already stood to have a tight bullpen race this spring. Cleveland just made the competition for relief jobs a little more interesting with the signing of right-hander Tommy Hunter to a one-year contract.The Indians officially added Hunter to the fold on Friday, effectively eliminating one of
CLEVELAND -- The Indians already stood to have a tight bullpen race this spring. Cleveland just made the competition for relief jobs a little more interesting with the signing of right-hander Tommy Hunter to a one-year contract.
The Indians officially added Hunter to the fold on Friday, effectively eliminating one of the vacancies in the Tribe's bullpen. As things stand right now, Hunter joins closer Cody Allen, setup men Bryan Shaw and Zach McAllister, and righty Jeff Manship on the list of virtual locks for the Indians' relief corps.
Hunter, whose deal is worth $2 million, is currently rehabbing from core-muscle surgery he underwent earlier this offseason. He will also earn $100,000 bonuses for 25 and 30 games pitched, and $200,000 bonuses for reaching 40, 45 and 50 games, according to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.
The Indians designated catcher Tony Wolters for assignment to clear a spot on the roster for Hunter's arrival.
That would leave two or three jobs up for grabs, depending on whether manager Terry Francona heads into the regular season with a seven- or eight-man bullpen. The number of pitchers in the mix for those few openings is in double digits, which includes a handful of intriguing non-roster invitees this spring.
Francona's options for left-handed relief includes Kyle Crockett (40-man roster), Giovanni Soto (40-man roster), Ross Detwiler (non-roster), Tom Gorzelanny (non-roster) and Joe Thatcher (non-roster). Right-handers on the 40-man roster include Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong and Dan Otero (purchased from the Phillies this offseason), while Joba Chamberlain and Joe Colon will be in the fold as non-roster invitees.
Hunter, 29, split his time with the Orioles and Cubs last season, posting a 4.18 ERA in 58 appearances. The righty struck out 47, walked 14 and turned in a 1.24 WHIP in 60 1/3 innings. Hunter has played for the Rangers as well as the Orioles and Cubs over the course of his eight seasons in the Majors, turning in a 4.31 ERA in 284 career appearances, including a 3.28 career ERA as a reliever.
Over the 2013-15 seasons, Hunter worked exclusively as a reliever, logging a 3.26 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 207 1/3 innings. He has been more effective against righties (.679 opponents' OPS in his career) than lefties (.821), and he has seen a spike in velocity since moving to the bullpen. Last year, Hunter's four-seam fastball averaged 97.4 miles per hour, according to PITCHf/x data culled by brooksbaseball.net.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.