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Exciting opportunity attracts Belisle to Indians

Veteran reliever gets Minor League deal with Spring Training invitation
MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona wanted to be completely honest with Matt Belisle before the veteran reliever penned his name on a contract. Francona explained that there was a bullpen job available, but there were no guarantees and a lot of factors being considered by Cleveland's decisionmakers.

Belisle was in uniform on Sunday morning and shaking hands around the Indians' clubhouse, following a physical that finalized his Minor League pact with the Tribe. The right-hander will be given the chance to compete for a spot in the team's Opening Day bullpen as a non-roster invitee, and that was all Belisle needed to hear.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona wanted to be completely honest with Matt Belisle before the veteran reliever penned his name on a contract. Francona explained that there was a bullpen job available, but there were no guarantees and a lot of factors being considered by Cleveland's decisionmakers.

Belisle was in uniform on Sunday morning and shaking hands around the Indians' clubhouse, following a physical that finalized his Minor League pact with the Tribe. The right-hander will be given the chance to compete for a spot in the team's Opening Day bullpen as a non-roster invitee, and that was all Belisle needed to hear.

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"I probably sold the opportunity short," Francona said, "just because I didn't want to get a veteran like that in here and then not have it be what he thought. So, I was actually kind of surprised when he decided to come here, but thrilled."

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The Indians' clubhouse staff set Belisle up with a locker next to righty Carlos Torres, who signed a similar Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation on Thursday. Those two veteran arms now look like the top candidates for the lone vacancy within Cleveland's relief corps, which returns six of the arms who helped lead the Majors in team bullpen ERA (2.89) last season.

As things currently stand, the Indians' bullpen will be anchored by closer Cody Allen and relief ace Andrew Miller, with Dan Otero, Zach McAllister, Nick Goody and Tyler Olson all being virtual locks for a roster spot. If Francona goes with a traditional seven-man staff, that means only one job is available.

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Lefty starter Ryan Merritt is out of Minor League options, so he is being considered for a relief role, too. If Cleveland's entire rotation is healthy at the end of camp, the sixth man on the depth chart might also wind up in the bullpen mix. Then, there are the other non-roster invitees who are trying to impress the club. Belisle understands the landscape and is happy to be in the running.

"Everything inside me, my gut, was just calling to this place," Belisle said. "This organization is now heralded, and has been for quite some time, as one of the great places to be. I'm surrounded by very good people -- quality up and down. Obviously, this is an intact, contending team eager to win a championship. You put quality of personnel and a special clubhouse together with a chance for a ring, it makes [the decision] very easy."

Last season, the 37-year-old Belisle wound up in the closer's role for the Twins down the stretch, following the July 31 trade that sent Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals. Over the season's final two months, Belisle posted a 2.55 ERA with nine saves in 11 chances over 18 appearances. His season ERA climbed to 8.59 after allowing four runs on June 11, but Belisle then spun a 1.41 ERA with a .187 opponents' average over his final 36 games.

Video: MIN@BOS: Belisle induces DP, escapes bases-loaded jam

Overall, Belisle had a 4.03 ERA in 62 outings in 2017, in which he logged 60 1/3 innings and established career bests in strikeouts per nine innings (8.1) and hits per nine innings (7.2). The righty had spent parts of 14 seasons in the Majors between stints with the Reds, Rockies, Cardinals, Nationals and Twins -- posting a 4.19 ERA over 660 career appearances.

Belisle said the deal with the Indians -- which includes a $1.5 million base salary in the Majors, plus incentives -- came together swiftly.

"Fast and furious, really," Belisle said. "I'll just say, it's an honor to be wanted by such a great organization. I'm excited about the opportunity. It was quick. I had some tough decisions, but I'm very happy that I'm here."

Tribe claims Taylor
The Indians claimed right-hander Ben Taylor off waivers from the Red Sox on Sunday and placed righty Cody Anderson (coming back from Tommy John surgery on his elbow) on the 60-day disabled list. Taylor, who was designated for assignment by Boston on Feb. 18, made the Opening Day roster with the Red Sox last spring and then turned in a 5.19 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. Taylor missed a month between July and August with a left intercostal strain and finished the year in Triple-A. He has a 2.95 ERA with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 64 career Minor League games. Taylor, 25, has two Minor League options remaining.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Matt Belisle