Indians, Sauerbeck agree to new deal

Sauerbeck gets new deal from Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Reliever Scott Sauerbeck made it easy on the Indians.

He decided that staying with Cleveland and the certainty of what awaited him here in '06 sounded a lot more appealing than going somewhere else and not knowing what to expect. So Sauerbeck, who sat out the 2004 season with arm problems, and the Indians set out to get a contract done.

They succeeded.

The two sides agreed to a deal that will keep Sauerbeck here through the 2006 season with a vesting option for '07. He said he had no second thoughts about foregoing free agency.

"For one, the team's really going to be good," he said. "Two, the other night I was thinking about free agency and stuff, and I told you guys all along that I didn't want to be the guy who just faced left-handed batters. This year, that's what I did.

"I pitched myself into that, which I'm accountable for."

Still, Sauerbeck was a key member last season of the one of the best bullpens in Major League Baseball. He compiled a 1-0 record with a 4.04 ERA in 58 appearances and limited left-handed hitters to a .162 average.

Yet his performance wasn't as good as he wanted it to be. He said he knew that his recovery from shoulder surgery would take two years. So his velocity should settle back into the high 80s and not stay in the low 80s.

"Sometimes, you felt like you were out there in a gunfight and holding knives," he said. "I was healthy, but I wasn't 100 percent."

The expected increase in velocity should allow Sauerbeck to become more than a situational pitcher, which is good news for the Indians.

Having Sauerbeck back fills a hole that the Indians probably couldn't have filled on the free agent market anyway, a market that is thin on left-handed relievers. The other option for the Tribe would have been its farm system, but the organization has no proven left-handed relievers there to pick from.

That made trying to get Sauerbeck back into the fold somewhat of a priority, although not as high a priority as trying to re-sign Kevin Millwood, Bob Howry or Bob Wickman. Still, the Indians viewed Sauerbeck as a piece they didn't want to lose.

He didn't want to leave, either.

"My options were: I could sign a two-year deal with the Yankees and be a left-handed specialist for two years; or have a chance to set up and earn my way back," said Sauerbeck, who turns 34 on Wednesday. "I was like, 'I don't want to lose again, but I don't want to get locked up in being a specialist.'

"Cleveland was loyal to me. They're going to give me an opportunity, and, hopefully, I'll take advantage of it. It was an easy decision."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.