PHOENIX: The Indians’ Opening Day roster continues to take shape. The pitching staff is now set.
On Tuesday, the club informed relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong that he had secured the seventh and final spot in the bullpen to begin the 2017 season. In corresponding moves, Nick Goody, Carlos Frias and Kyle Crockett were all optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Armstrong joins Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, Boone Logan, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister to form arguably one of the best bullpens in baseball.
“To get the news today that I’m going to be on the Opening Day roster of a World Series team, it’s kind of unexplainable,” Armstrong said. “It still hasn’t fully hit me quite yet, but I’m more than excited and ready to get going, and hopefully help as much as I can throughout the season to help us get back there. … It was very exciting to hear my fiancee cry on the other end of the phone.”
Armstrong has a 0.92 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 9? innings this spring. It’s the result of a long winter of work that included Armstrong sending weekly videos back and forth with pitching coach Mickey Callaway in an effort to attack some of the flaws that kept him from regular time in the major-leagues in past years. Namely, Armstrong has focused on attacking the strike zone earlier in the count.
He also came to spring prepared to take on a different kind of role in the Indians’ bullpen than the one he occupied at various levels through the minor leagues, when he was a setup man or closer. Armstrong went to work ensuring he could throw multiple innings as the last guy in the bullpen.
“This winter, versus throwing my normal 15-20 pitch bullpens, I was working on all my stuff and I was throwing 40-45 pitch bullpens this offseason, just to kind of get my arm in shape just to be able to go multi-innings,” Armstrong said.
Indians manager Terry Francona said the club “agonized” over the decision between Armstrong, Goody, Frias and Crockett as the seventh reliever. Francona added that if the Indians were carrying eight relievers, Goody would likely be on the team as well. Instead, Carlos Carrasco will be in his spot in the rotation, only not yet fully stretched out.
Armstrong did just enough this winter and spring to have a much more positive conversation in Francona’s office than the one he had two years ago.
“His maturity, we were kind of laughing with him today, because two years ago he sat in that same seat and we were kind of semi yelling at him about, he had exploded after a spring training game,” Francona said. “He was down in the tunnel yelling and venting. Now, he’s sitting in the same chair, making a major-league team. He’s come a long way. He has earned the praise that he’s getting today and the responsibility that comes with making a team.”
Armstrong joked on Tuesday that they haven’t determined which “snack bag” they’ll use for the bullpen this year. But the important thing is that he’s the one carrying it.
Brewers 13, Indians 12
Corey Kluber made his final tuneup before his Opening Day start in the Indians’ 13-12 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Kluber allowed five runs on six hits and struck out six in five innings.
“He’s strong. He’s in good shape. His arm feels good,” Francona said. “He’s ready to go make a lot of starts. Obviously you hope a guy comes out of the shoot. Sometimes it takes guys some time regardless of who you are to kind of get on a roll. It’d be fun to see it on Opening Day but regardless he’s going to be good.”
Bryan Shaw allowed a three-run home run to former Indians first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who has been having a dynamite spring. Shaw has been hit hard the previous two springs as well.
“They’re all working on stuff,” Francona said. “I just think B, he’s been pretty consistent. Spring training not very good and during the season he’s real good. As long as he looks healthy, which he does, he’ll be all right.”
Daniel Robertson drove in three runs but came up grabbing his hamstring trying to leg out a triple. The Indians will evaluate Robertson in the coming days. Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley each went 2-for-3 with a double.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians.