Brett Myers has performed virtually every role available to a major-league pitcher, but his preference is to start, and the Indians are giving him that opportunity.
That gives the Tribe three pitchers with a stranglehold on rotation spots, Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez being the others.
“Because of what he did last year, Zach McAllister has a leg up,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said Friday.
No spring training trial will be required of Myers. He will not have to compete for a spot in the rotation; he’s in by declaration. That’s not a big surprise, inasmuch as Myers has started 249 games in a career that spans 377 appearances. The only question: Will he be as effective after spending one full season in the bullpen?
In 2012, he split the season between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, compiling a 3-8 record and 3.31 ERA in 70 appearances. He also saved 19 games for the Astros. It was his second assignment as a closer. In 2007, Myers accumulated 21 saves with the Philadelphia Phillies.
For his career, Myers is 89-79 with a 4.27 ERA as a starter and 8-14 with 40 saves and a 3.36 ERA as a reliever.
“Brett will go into our rotation,” Antonetti said, after Myers passed a physical to make his signing official. “We think he will eat some innings for us, and we like that he’s a strike thrower.”
Myers’ reliability depends on those two skills. In 2010 and 2011, when he was a full-time starter with the Astros, he accumulated 439⅔ innings and posted a 3.79 ERA. During his entire major-league career, Myers has averaged a solid 2.9 walks per nine innings and has thrown at least 190 innings six times.
Antonetti believes Myers can return to being a consistent starter, but nobody knows for sure.
“I think we’re confident that he can do it, because he did it in the past,” Antonetti said. “Of course, there’s uncertainty with every player.”
Said Myers, “It shouldn’t be a struggle to go back to starting, but in ’08 I struggled to go back to the rotation after being in the bullpen [in 2007]. I learned a lot from that. I was more of a thrower [as a reliever]. I went back to the minors to relearn how to be a pitcher. I’m determined not to do that again.”
Myers will make $7 million this year, and the Tribe holds a club option worth $8 million for 2014.
“He gives us protection in the bullpen, and there’s protection for him in his contract if he has to go back to the bullpen,” Antonetti said.
Myers isn’t sure why he ended up as a reliever in 2012.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “I didn’t understand it. I took it as a challenge, something the team wanted. They had other options. They [said they] wanted to see the kids throw.”
What did Myers like about the Indians?
“They mentioned needing a starter, and I looked at myself as a starter,” he said. “I thought it was a good opportunity to get back into a rotation. I felt comfortable because I know people here [coaches Brad Mills and Kevin Cash and catcher Lou Marson].”
The other significant characteristic of Myers’ career is his durability. Only once did he miss a large chunk of the season, when he was forced to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip as a member of the Phillies in 2009.
He also has had his controversial moments. In June of 2006, Myers was arrested when witnesses allegedly saw him hit his wife in the face on a Boston street near Fenway Park. However, his wife refused to press charges despite the objection of prosecutors, and the case was dismissed. Following the incident, Myers took a brief leave of absence from the team.
“It was unfortunate that it happened, but he’s been accountable for it,” Antonetti said. “And it has been seven years.”
To make room on the 40-man roster for Myers, Russ Canzler was designated for assignment and claimed on waivers by the New York Yankees.
It was the second time in two weeks that Canzler had been jettisoned to clear a roster spot. The first time, he was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays, who placed him on waivers a few days later, and the Tribe claimed him.
Canzler was considered a legitimate candidate as the Indians’ designated hitter. Antonetti named Mike Aviles, Yan Gomes, Chris McGuiness and Ezequiel Carrera as possibilities to fill that role.
Asked whether Travis Hafner was on his radar, Antonetti said, “That could be. It depends on other opportunities for Travis and his thoughts about returning.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.