CLEVELAND -- The Indians added some much-needed experience
and depth to their young bullpen Saturday, agreeing to one-year
contracts with Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz.
Hernandez, a 42-year-old right-hander, is guaranteed $3.5
million. The Indians have a $3.7 million option for 2008.
Financial terms on the deal for Fultz, a 33-year-old lefty, were
not immediately available. His contract also includes a club option
for 2008. A phone message left for Fultz's agent was not
Hernandez went 0-3 with two saves and a 3.11 ERA in 68
appearances for Pittsburgh and the New York Mets last season. He
began the year with the Pirates, who dealt him just before the July
31 trade deadline.
Hernandez, who made three appearances against St. Louis in the
NL championship series, has 326 career saves, 10th-most in major
league history. But he is not expected to compete for the job as
Cleveland's closer during spring training.
"It is a possibility that he'll close some," general manager
Mark Shapiro said during a conference call. "That is not the
Cleveland had a major league-low 24 saves last season and
Shapiro is exploring the free-agent market for someone to finish
games. The Indians might choose not to sign a closer and conduct an
open competition among their current relievers while in Florida
Shapiro said adding veterans to the bullpen should help the
entire pitching staff because they'll know how to handle themselves
when things don't go well.
And the Indians aren't finished shopping.
"One of the things we're trying to do is change the dynamic in
our bullpen," Shapiro said. "We expect and hope to sign at least
one more reliever with experience. ... There hasn't been any
back-end bullpen presence that we have not been in on."
Hernandez was offered salary arbitration by the Mets, so signing
him will cost the Indians a future draft pick.
Among active pitchers, the durable Hernandez ranks fourth in
career appearances (960) and third in saves. He recently had minor
surgery to clean out his knee, but Cleveland had him in for a
physical and Shapiro said he had "zero concern there."
Fultz went 3-1 with a 4.54 ERA in 66 appearances for
Philadelphia in 2006. He did not allow a run in his final eight
appearances in September.
The Indians didn't have an experienced left-handed setup man on
their roster for most of last season, making it difficult for
manager Eric Wedge to match up against opposing teams in late-game
Fultz has limited left-handed hitters to a .240 average during
his career. He is 21-12 with three saves and a 4.37 ERA in 414
appearances. He made his major league debut with San Francisco in
2000 and has also pitched for Texas and Minnesota.
"Our ability to get left-handers out has been a problem,"
Shapiro said. "He's a guy that has been consistently effective
Shapiro said the Indians also are looking for a utility
infielder who can play shortstop extremely well and they'll
probably try to fill that need in a trade because such a player is
no longer available on the free-agent market.