Bradley headlines list of Spring Training NRIs

Tribe also invites five pitchers to big league camp in hopes of finding 'pen arm

January 4th, 2018

The Indians will have no shortage of pitching candidates in Spring Training as they try to tinker with their bullpen. The team announced eight non-roster invitees to Major League camp on Thursday, with five of those invitations going to pitchers.
While first-base prospect Bobby Bradley headlines the list of in-house invites, the bulk of the invitations go to relief pitchers. Right-handers Louis Head, Cameron Hill, and Cole Sulser will report to big league camp as the Indians try to sort out their bullpen without and Joe Smith. Head, Martin and Sulser spent last season in the bullpen at Triple-A Columbus, while Hill was an Eastern League All-Star closer at Double-A Akron.
First baseman Nellie Rodriguez and corner infielder Richie Shaffer also received invites. In addition, the Indians signed lefty Robert Zarate to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite as the 30-year-old mounts a comeback from left elbow surgery. The former Blue Jays prospect hasn't pitched in professional baseball the past two seasons due to injuries, but made an impression pitching winter ball this offseason in Venezuela. Left-handed hitters went just 5-for-32 against Zarate this winter, while he posted 33 strikeouts over 36 1/3 innings with 33 hits allowed.
Bradley ranks third on MLB Pipeline's list of Indians prospects and is listed as the fourth overall first-base prospect in the Majors.The 21-year-old left-handed hitter, a former third-round Draft pick, hit .251 with 25 doubles, 23 home runs, 89 RBIs and a .796 OPS at Akron, then batted .230 (17-for-74) in 18 games in the Arizona Fall League. He'll get a glimpse of big league pitching in Spring Training as he tries to make an impression on coaches and evaluators for the future.

Head, a former 18th-round pick out of Texas State, went 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 50 appearances at Columbus, including seven saves. The 27-year-old held opponents to 50 hits over 61 1/3 innings with 28 walks and 65 strikeouts, good for 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Martin missed two months last season with elbow inflammation, but still posted four saves and a 3.25 ERA in 30 appearances in his second season with Columbus. The 28-year-old allowed 36 hits over as many innings with eight walks and 38 strikeouts.
Sulser, who turns 28 in March, compiled a 2.70 ERA and three saves in 45 games between Akron and Columbus last year as he made the transition to a full-time reliever. The former 25th-round pick struck out 59 batters over 48 innings with the Clippers.
Hill posted 13 saves and finished 28 games in Akron last year before making two appearances with Columbus at season's end. The 23-year-old, a former 17th-round pick, allowed 55 hits over 62 1/3 innings with 16 walks and 50 strikeouts.
Rodriguez batted .170 (64-for-377) with 14 doubles, 17 home runs and 49 RBIs at Columbus in 2017, and has 86 homers over his last four seasons in the Indians farm system. Shaffer, a former Rays infielder and first-round pick claimed off waivers last offseason, hit 30 homers for Columbus to go with a .227 average, 89 RBIs and an .802 OPS while playing the corner infield and outfield spots.