WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Indians feel pretty optimistic about the improvements they made to their bullpen this winter, especially when taking a weak free-agent market into consideration. It is, however, a cautious optimism, tempered by the knowledge that an injury or two or three or a lack of productivity from the new arms could lead to another bullpen bummer. With that in mind, the Indians, a day before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, have added another name to their relief pool. Veteran right-hander Cliff Politte, late of the White Sox, was signed Wednesday to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big-league camp.
Politte is certainly no slam-dunk in the health department. A rough first half with the Sox last season led to his release in mid-July. In August, he had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and remove bone spurs from his throwing shoulder. Because of the surgery, the 32-year-old Politte isn't expected to be ready to pitch by Opening Day. But if Politte can get back to his form of 2005, when he helped the Sox win their first World Series title in 88 years, he'd be an intriguing option for the Tribe. In '05, Politte was as dominant as he was durable. He went 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 68 games, allowing just 42 hits in 67 1/3 innings. But in '06, Politte began to be bothered by the shoulder, and his velocity dipped into the low 90s. He went 2-2 with an 8.70 ERA in 30 games. For his 10-year career, which has included stints with the Cardinals, Phillies and Blue Jays, Politte has gone 22-23 with a 4.40 ERA and 15 saves in 330 appearances, including 16 starts. Rafael Betancourt, Joe Borowski, Keith Foulke, Aaron Fultz and Roberto Hernandez are the only locks to make the Indians' Opening Day bullpen. Jason Davis, Fernando Cabrera and Matt Miller are the three candidates for the final two spots.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.