GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Plan G didn’t solve the problem, so the Indians moved on to Plan H Thursday by acquiring right-hander Jairo Asencio from the Atlanta Braves for cash.
Asencio, who will be 28 in May, spent most of last season at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he posted a 3-2 record with 26 saves (in 27 chances) and a 1.81 ERA. It is worth noting that he struck out 70 in 54‚ innings.
He also pitched six times for the Braves, posting a 6.97 ERA in 10· innings, allowing 16 hits and five walks and striking out eight.
Why is Asencio here? The bullpen situation still is unsettled.
Manager Manny Acta has two spots to fill, though it is presumed that Frank Herr-mann remains on track to win one. The seventh bullpen job was designated as a competition among Dan Wheeler, Jeremy Accardo, Chris Ray, Chris Seddon, Robinson Tejeda and Nick Hagadone.
The fact that so many pitchers were vying for one position is not a good sign in itself. Add to this group Henricus VandenHurk, who was claimed on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on March 21. VandenHurk pitched twice and gave up four runs and one walk and hit a batter in 1‚ innings.
He showed a live arm but not sharp command and was designated for assignment Thursday.
“This is a guy our scouts have liked for quite awhile,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “He has a good fastball and slider. He has a history of missing bats. He is coming here to win a job.”
Antonetti said that Asencio’s fastball ranges in speed from 90 to 95, and that he usually sits at 90-91.
Acta has seen Asencio as a closer in the Dominican Republic winter league.
“He did the job closing games down there,” Acta said. “He’s got a swing-and-miss slider. It’s a very good pitch. He’ll probably fly here [today], and we’ll try to get him in games over the weekend.”
Only four games remain on the Arizona schedule, with one more set for Zebulon, N.C., on April 3 against the club’s Class A affiliate in the Carolina League. The question becomes how can Asencio show enough in a brief time to convince the Tribe’s deep thinkers he deserves a roster spot?
He would not be permitted to pitch more than every other day, and the last time he threw for the Braves was Tuesday, when he gave up one run, three hits and a walk in one inning against the New York Mets. If he does not throw until Saturday, he might be a little rusty.
“We will factor in his track record and history,” Antonetti said.
Does this mean that Asencio will be given the bullpen spot automatically? It is clear that Acta and Antonetti haven’t been pleased with the way the competition has been going, though Antonetti chose to phrase it another way.
“You have to look at our history of trying to get Asencio before,” he said. “So I wouldn’t read too much into this being a reflection of the guys who are in camp.”
For the spring, Asencio made 10 appearances for the Braves, giving up four earned runs, 13 hits and three walks in 11 innings. He also struck out 12, and opposing batters hit .271 against him. The high number of appearances seems to indicate that he was a serious contender for a spot in the bullpen.
However, the Braves might have decided late that he was not going to make the staff and were willing to give him up for cash, figuring that he is out of options and would be lost on waivers.
Asencio missed the entire 2010 season, when he was caught using a false identity and was unable to obtain a work permit from the U.S. government.
“We’re obviously aware of it,” Antonetti said. “He cleared that obstacle by getting into the U.S. I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.