Reliever Durbin, Tribe seal one-year deal

Reliever Durbin, Tribe seal one-year deal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There was no name plate above his locker and a Phillies equipment bag jammed inside, but the Indians shirt Chad Durbin was wearing indicated that he had finally joined Cleveland's bullpen.

Durbin settled into his new surroundings on Tuesday, making his way around the clubhouse to visit with his teammates -- some familiar and others not. His deal with the Tribe had been reported for much of the past week, but only now is the right-hander officially aboard.

"I knew there was a way to make a little bit of a splash or impact here," Durbin said.

That is certainly Cleveland's hope.

The Indians added Durbin to the mix on a one-year deal worth $800,000, offering $1 million in incentives as part of the contract. Durbin provides a veteran arm to the Tribe's youthful pitching staff and can adapt to a variety of different roles. He can also help the Indians avoid forcing some young prospects to the Majors before they are ready.

"He brings a versatile, experienced Major League reliever," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "[He] should provide some stability and leadership out there. He's been on some championship-caliber teams with Philadelphia and managed the pressure of that environment and hopefully can be an important part of our bullpen."

The Indians need to make a subsequent transaction in order to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster for Durbin. The ballclub will likely announce that move on Wednesday.

For the past three years, Durbin worked out of Philadelphia's bullpen, helping the club during its run to two of the past three World Series. The 33-year-old right-hander became a free agent this winter, but still held out hope that the Phillies would come calling with a Major League contract offer.

When the Phillies reeled in marquee free agent Cliff Lee -- assembling an intimidating, and expensive, rotation that also includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels -- Durbin could see the writing on the wall. The chances of Philadelphia coming through with a guaranteed contract were slim.

"When Cliff signed," Durbin said, "it took any ability to go back there on a Major League deal off the table."

Durbin then smiled.

"You know," he added, "I'd take Cliff Lee over Chad Durbin."

Durbin still thought a Major League contract would be out there.

In all, Durbin said his agent had discussions with 22 teams. As the offseason dragged into February, the Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Rangers and Mariners were all tied to the pitcher in various reports. Some clubs promised a Major League contract, but no official offers came in.

By the time big league camps opened, Durbin knew he had to make a decision.

"Yeah, I'm not sure what happened to be honest with you," Durbin said. "The way it shook out, it was mid February and then it was late February. It's time to go play baseball. The teams that we were dealing with at the end were all saying, 'If you give us another day or two, we'll find the big league deal.'

"We said, 'It's too late.' We needed it now and that was definitely an edge for Cleveland. But the opportunity here is fantastic as well."

Durbin also pitched for Cleveland for parts of the 2003 and '04 seasons, so being familiar with Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro certainly helped. The opportunity Durbin referred to, however, was the chance to join a relief corps that posted a 2.95 ERA in the second half a year ago.

The bullpen is anchored by closer Chris Perez and has solid left-handed setup options in Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis are front-runners to join Durbin as right-handed relievers out of the bullpen. There are a variety of arms in the mix for the final spot in the 'pen this spring.

"These guys don't need much help with the way they were in the second half last year," Durbin said. "So I'm just adding a piece with some experience, maybe slow them down when they're speeding up too much and help them out with understanding what it's like to do it over a full year."

Last season, Durbin went 4-1 with a 3.80 ERA in 64 games for the Phillies, compiling 63 strikeouts against 27 walks over 68 2/3 innings. In 308 career games (75 starts), he is 36-44 with a 5.05 ERA. His style of pitching has changed dramatically since he last pitched for the Tribe, though.

Back then, when Durbin was returning from Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow, he threw mostly four-seam fastballs, changeups and a curve. Now, Durbin relies heavily on a cutter and a sinker, adding another ground-ball-oriented pitcher to Cleveland's staff.

"Adding the cutter has been something that's allowed him to be a little bit more effective," Antonetti said. "That's the biggest difference for him now than when we had him."

Antonetti said it would likely be at least a week before Durbin makes his Cactus League debut with the Tribe. Over the past couple of weeks, Durbin has been throwing and working out, but not to the same degree that he could have in a big league camp.

Durbin said he was even heading to a local high school in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., to get some work in.

"I did whatever I could," Durbin said.

Needless to say, having a name plate was the least of his concerns.

Durbin was simply thrilled to finally be in camp.

"There was a sense of urgency to get something done," Durbin said. "Making a decision was important and I feel like we made the right one."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.