GOODYEAR, Ariz.: The Indians improved to 2-0 in arbitration hearings Saturday when the team won its case against right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin.
Tomlin appeared in one game — two scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox — with the Tribe last season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. He’d asked for a raise to $975,000 for the 2014 season. But the panel of arbitrators voted in favor of the Indians’ offer of $800,000.
Tomlin, 29, is 23-19 with a 4.92 ERA in 60 career games with the Indians. He’ll spend spring training battling for the fifth spot in the rotation.
In the club’s first arbitration hearing Feb. 7, the Indians won their case against reliever Vinnie Pestano.
“Our clear preference is to always negotiate a settlement,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said Thursday. “But it has to be an equitable settlement, and one we think makes sense. In both Vinnie and Josh’s case, we felt we made very earnest efforts to try and reach an agreement. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to.”
There appeared to be no hard feelings late Saturday morning when both Tomlin and Antonetti had smiles on their faces as they chatted outside of the clubhouse.
“To me, it just rolls off my back,” Tomlin said. “I understand the faults that I have and acknowledge them. I think it’s what makes you a better person and a better player.”
The Indians added more depth to the pitching mix Saturday by signing veteran Aaron Harang to a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league camp. Antonetti said Harang, a 12-year veteran, and the team had been in talks for some time.
“On and off for at least a portion of the offseason,” Antonetti said. “But it intensified over the last two or three weeks.”
A 6-foot-7, 260-pound right-hander, Harang has a career 110-116 record, including 5-12 last year while pitching for the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets.
“He pitched well at the end of the year and his stuff was consistent with where it’s been in the past,” Antonetti said. “He maintained consistent strikeout rates and his walk rates actually improved. He just gave up more home runs last year.”
In eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds during his prime, Harang, 35, won at least 10 games four times. He’s also pitched for the Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. He joins the group competing for the fifth spot in the Tribe’s rotation.
Saturday was a milestone day for reliever Frank Herrmann, who threw a bullpen session in front of manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway and then faced live hitters for the first time since Tommy John elbow surgery last spring.
“It’s been a long road back,” Francona said. “But Frank looks strong. This was another step in his process coming back. There’s going to be a gradual progression to when he gets into a game. But I was thrilled for him, just the fact that he’s gone through so much.”
Most baseball teams employ a super utilityman, a player who can handle a variety of positions in an emergency. For the Tribe, Ryan Raburn fills that role. An outfielder by trade, Raburn can also catch and has played some infield. And in a real pinch, he proved last season he’s no slouch of a pitcher when he was called upon for mop-up duty in a blowout loss to the Detroit Tigers. This spring he’ll add first base to his resume.
Francona said the initial plan was to have Raburn play a little first base last year, but the experiment had to be shelved temporarily.
“When we started out, he was in the outfield and then he started to get dinged up a little bit,” Francona said. “Then we had Carlos [Santana], so there wasn’t a need. And when there was a need, that’s when [Raburn’s] foot was bothering him. So we fully intended to. But we told him when he went home this year to bring a first baseman’s glove, we’ll work him there.’’
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