A lot was made of the Indians' bullpen issues last year, so the club made the bullpen a top priority during the offseason. Looking at the names of the guys in their 'pen last year, I was kind of surprised it was considered a problem, though. I guess things just didn't go their way.
So they signed a lot of guys, including me, over the winter to fix that problem, and it's worked out pretty well so far. It was an easy choice for me. I had played against the Indians when I was with the Rangers and the Twins, and I always considered them a good franchise.
But the thing that really sold me on the team was the way they handled the contract negotiations. They were very open and honest with my agent. I got the feeling that they really wanted me to be on their team, and that I wasn't a third- or fourth-option guy. It's easier to come and play for a team when you know they want you there and know what you can bring to their team.
Without a doubt, it's a great time to be a reliever in baseball, considering the way the game is played. All the teams that have won the last few years have all possessed a great bullpen. I think it takes pressure off everyone on the team if the bullpen is doing its job.
It certainly makes it easier on the starters because they can go out and do what they need to for six or seven innings instead of having to worry about the entire game. Plus, the hitters can focus on scoring runs early, trusting us to take care of our business late in the game.
I like the way our bullpen is made up right now. We have a good mix of veterans and guys with good arms who are going to be around for a long while. I think we compliment each other very well. I just went on the disabled list with a ribcage injury but it's a situation where it's smarter to take a couple weeks now rather than have the injury drag out for five or six weeks.
Joe Borowski, our closer, just wants the ball. He's the ultimate competitor and wants to take us to the playoffs. He's fun to watch, though he's not your typical closer. He doesn't throw 95 mph and he doesn't have a great split. But if you put everything he has together, it's a talented package.
I think all of our younger relievers may not be that well known, but are playing great ball. Tom Mastny has one of the best curveballs I've seen. Rafael Betancourt seems to throw the ball wherever he wants and whenever he wants. They all throw hard and their command is great.
You can always get stronger, but I think our bullpen is in good shape.
Aaron Fultz was 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA over a team-high 32 appearances before being placed on the disabled list on June 27 due to a strained rib muscle. The left-hander has a 24-13 record, 21 saves and 3.76 ERA over seven-plus seasons.
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