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Indians' Armstrong In MLB Not A Stretch



CLEVELAND
—There are multiple reasons why Shawn Armstrong’s resume as a relief pitcher appeals to Indians officials. In 50 innings over 46 appearances with Triple-A Columbus last year Armstrong didn’t give up any home runs while averaging 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings, the second-highest ratio for any relief pitcher (minimum 45 innings pitched) in all of minor league baseball.
"He has a nice fastball with some extra giddy-up that hitters have to respect. He’s an interesting guy,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. Francona got a first-hand look at Armstrong last year, when the 25-year-old righthander made eight appearances for the major league club in August and September. Selected in the 18th round out of East Carolina in the 2011 draft, Armstrong has made a steady climb through the minor league system. In five minor league seasons he has a 2.42 ERA while averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and allowing just seven home runs in 212 innings. All those good numbers have positioned Armstrong to make a run at a big league job in 2016. The Indians opened camp with three or possibly four openings in their bullpen. Armstrong is in the mix, but even if he starts the year back at Columbus, he would be a candidate for a promotion this season. In his eight appearances with the Indians last year Armstrong’s numbers mirrored his performance at Columbus. For the Indians he pitched eight innings, allowing five hits, with 11 strikeouts and two walks. He held opposing hitters to a .179 batting average. "When he pitched, he pitched well,” Francona said. "There’s so much in that arm. He’s a big, strong kid. We all feel he has a good future in the bullpen.” SMOKE SIGNALS • Outfielder Will Venable, who was a college teammate of new general manager Mike Chernoff at Princeton, signed a minor league contract and is in the major league camp as a non-roster player. In a combined 135 games with the Padres and Rangers last year Venable hit .244/.320/.350 with six home runs and 33 RBIs. • Outfielder Abraham Almonte
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, who appeared to be the leading candidate to be the Indians’ Opening Day center fielder, has been suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball for a PED violation.

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