Indians eat Fultz's option

Indians eat Fultz's option

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Aaron Fultz has pitched himself off the Indians' roster.

The Indians informed Fultz on Monday morning that he will not be a member of their club this year, despite the fact that they exercised his $1.5 million option for 2008. Craig Breslow, another left-handed reliever plucked off outright waivers by the Indians on Sunday, will get the first crack at taking his spot in the bullpen.

Fultz, 34, had a rough spring, putting up an 11.88 ERA in seven Grapefruit League outings. He gave up 14 runs, 11 earned, on 16 hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. He was also dinged for four runs in two innings of a Minor League intrasquad game against Double-A Akron last week.

General manager Mark Shapiro said the Indians don't ordinarily make major decisions off Spring Training performance. But Fultz's outings and the relatively low value of his contract made Shapiro comfortable with this move.

"It's never a decision you want to take lightly in this market," Shapiro said, "but the value of his option certainly factored into the decision."

The Indians picked up Fultz's option after he went 4-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 49 appearances last season. He missed about five weeks midseason with a strained rib cage muscle. He allowed 14 of 45 inherited runners (31 percent) to score.

"He was a guy who, prior to the injury, pitched effectively for us," Shapiro said. "He never really got back to that form after [the injury]. I'm sure he's a guy who can still help someone in the big leagues, but our desire was to take that spot in the bullpen and use that spot as an area where we try to get better."

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An official transaction involving Fultz had not yet been made as of Monday morning, but it's expected he'll be designated and the Indians will try to find a trading partner for him. Regardless, the Indians are expected to eat his '08 salary.

Three right-handers -- Tom Mastny and non-roster invitees Jorge Julio and Scott Elarton -- are vying for another open spot in the 'pen. But for Fultz's spot, the Indians appear to be leaning toward keeping Breslow, who is out of Minor League options. The club likes the option of having a second left-hander to join Rafael Perez.

Breslow, a Yale graduate who studied molecular biophysics, had a 2.69 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 67 innings at Triple-A Pawtucket in '06 and spent some time in the big leagues with the Red Sox. Last season, he spent the whole year at Pawtucket, putting up a 4.06 ERA in 68 2/3 innings over 49 games.

"A year ago at this time, we probably never could have gotten him," Shapiro said. "He had a solid year last year, but not quite as good. He has a very successful track record against left-handed hitters in the Minors. He's a resilient, smart guy."

Shapiro said the Tribe will continue to explore the waiver wire and trade ideas for other possibilities.

The Tribe's only other remaining roster decisions involve the other spot in the bullpen and the second utility infield job -- which is likely to go to Andy Marte, who is out of Minor League options.

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