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Tribe, Julio agree to Minor League deal

Tribe, Julio agree to Minor League deal

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CLEVELAND -- An Indians team that appeared to be heading into Spring Training with its bullpen all but set has a new and intriguing name to add to the mix.

The Tribe reached an agreement on Thursday with veteran reliever Jorge Julio on a one-year Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training camp. Julio began the 2007 season with the Marlins before becoming an important cog in the Rockies' bullpen down the stretch.

Consider Julio, 28, a candidate for the final spot in the Indians bullpen. The first six spots are expected to be filled by closer Joe Borowski, setup men Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez and Masahide Kobayashi, right-hander Jensen Lewis and left-hander Aaron Fultz.

Tom Mastny, who has pitched out of the Tribe 'pen the past two seasons, was the early favorite to land the last spot, but Julio's invite gives him a chance to make an impact this spring. Three other non-roster invitees -- right-handers Rick Bauer, Matt Ginter and Jeff Harris -- also have big league bullpen experience.

When last we saw Julio, he was giving up a two-run homer to the Padres' Scott Hairston in the top of the 13th inning of the National League Wild Card tiebreaker. That homer looked as if it would cost the Rockies a playoff berth, but they managed to rally in their final at-bat. The Rockies ended up leaving Julio off their roster for the postseason, citing his sore neck.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said Julio will be fully healthy when pitchers and catchers report to camp in Winter Haven, Fla., in two weeks.

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"This gives us more competition," Shapiro said of the Julio signing. "Competition is always a positive thing. Anytime you have the ability to bring in additional guys who have pitched in meaningful roles in the big leagues, the team will benefit from that."

Before the late-season neck problems and the meltdown against the Padres, Julio was a stabilizer in the Colorado 'pen. In his first 24 appearances with the team after his May acquisition from the Marlins, he posted a 2.38 ERA and limited opponents to a .213 average.

For the '07 season, Julio, a native of Venezuela, went 0-5 with a 5.23 ERA in 68 games. He was tough on left-handers, holding them to a .227 average with no homers.

In his seven-year career, which began with the Orioles and has included stints with the Mets and Diamondbacks, Julio is 13-33 with a 4.35 ERA and 99 saves. His best season came in 2003, when he saved 36 games for Baltimore.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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