Indians add 2 lefties on Minor League deals
Veterans Gorzelanny, Thatcher to compete for spot in Tribe's bullpen
CLEVELAND -- The Indians entered this offseason in need of more left-handed depth for their bullpen. Cleveland reeled in a pair arms on Monday to fill that hole in the roster puzzle.
The Indians signed veteran left-handers Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher to Minor League contracts, with invitations to Major League Spring Training. Both will compete for a spot in the Tribe's bullpen, which has often featured at least two southpaws under manager Terry Francona.
Cleveland's only true lefty relievers on the 40-man roster are Kyle Crockett, who bounced between Triple-A and the Majors last year, and Giovanni Soto, who has only six big league games to his credit. Gorzelanny and Thatcher, on the other hand, offer 712 combined games of Major League experience with solid track records against lefty batters.
"Crockett is still young," Francona said at the Winter Meetings earlier this month. "And even by his own admission, he got a little bit inconsistent this year in some ways where maybe he had not his first year. It was probably his first time he got hit around a little bit. He went to Triple-A. That happens. He's not necessarily a dead left-on-left guy.
"Soto may have some more of that ability in him, because he can spin the breaking ball, but it's also hard to ask a kid after he's got a month of Major League service to come in with the bases loaded and get the best left-handed hitter out in the lineup. So, we are looking at things."
The Indians opened last season with lefties Marc Rzepcyznski and Nick Hagadone in their bullpen, but neither are with the team now. Rzepczzynski was traded to San Diego last July for outfielder Abraham Almonte, and was dealt again this winter by the Padres to the A's. Hagadone sustained a season-ending elbow injury in July, was non-tendered this winter and recently signed with the Brewers.
Other lefties on the Indians' 40-man roster include Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando, but neither has cracked the Majors yet and they both are starting pitchers right now.
Gorzelanny, 33, posted a 5.95 ERA in 48 games with the Tigers last season, but most of the damage he allowed came against right-handed hitters. The lefty allowed a .354 average (.1.063 OPS) against righties, compared with a .222 (.664) showing against lefties. Gorzelanny has held left-handed batters to a .230 average (.662 OPS) in parts of 11 Major League seasons with the Pirates, Nationals, Cubs, Brewers and Tigers.
The 34-year-old Thatcher turned in a 3.18 ERA in 43 games last year for the Astros, logging 26 strikeouts and 12 walks in 22 2/3 innings. Used as a lefty specialist, Thatcher held left-handed batters to a .245 average (.686 OPS) showing in 2015. Over his career, he has held lefties to a .232 (.645) showing in parts of nine years with the Padres, D-backs, Angels and Astros.
Gorzelanny and Thatcher join Joba Chamberlain, Joseph Colon, Jarrett Grube and Felipe Paulino on Cleveland's list of pitchers who will be in Spring Training as non-roster invitees. Other non-roster invitees include: catchers Adam Moore and Anthony Recker; utility man Michael Martinez; and outfielders Michael Choice, Robbie Grossman and Shane Robinson.