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Indians Look For Lefties



CLEVELAND—The Indians’ bullpen helped propel the club to its first American League pennant in 19 years. But the bullpen still had a flaw.

That flaw: was the absence of a dependable matchup lefthander behind relief ace Andrew Miller.

Miller starred in the Cleveland bullpen from the moment he was acquired from the Yankees in July. He won the MVP award of the AL Championship Series against the Blue Jays, and he was also the only lefthanded reliever to throw a pitch for the Indians in their 15 postseason games.

During the regular season, the six lefthanders not named Miller who pitched in relief for the Indians combined for 38 innings and a 6.39 ERA.

The Indians tried to remedy that situation by selecting 26-year-old lefthander Hoby Milner from the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft.

A seventh-round pick out of Texas in 2012, Milner made a combined 49 appearances at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading in 2016. He recorded a 2.49 ERA and six saves while striking out 76 and allowing 15 walks and 57 hits in 65 innings.

Using a low arm slot and a fastball-curveball combo, he limited lefthanded batters to a .230/.279/.280 line in 2016.

Milner is the third lefthander the Indians have acquired on the cheap this offseason. They claimed Tim Cooney from the Cardinals and Edwin Escobar from the Diamondbacks on waivers in November.

Also on the 40-man roster is Kyle Crockett, who was the Indians’ only lefthanded reliever prior to the acquisition of Miller.

The 40-man roster also includes Triple-A lefthanded starters Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando, who could compete for a spot in the bullpen in 2017.

SMOKE SIGNALS

The Indians promoted Brad Grant to senior director of amateur scouting. He has been with the Indians for 23 years, the last nine as the scouting director. Other promotions in the scouting departments: Junie Melendez to regional supervisor and Andrew Krause to area supervisor. Cleveland hired Pete Loizzo as an area supervisor, and Dan Budreika and Ethan Purser as pro scouts.

The Indians lost outfielder Anthony Santander to the Orioles in the major league Rule 5 draft. He had a breakthrough year at high Class A Lynchburg in 2016 but had shoulder surgery after the season.

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Erik Gonzalez Emerges As Utility Infielder

A pair of out-of-options combatants vied for the Indians' utility job, with Gonzalez outlasting the more experienced Gio Urshela.

— Jim Ingraham is a columnist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram/Medina Gazette

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