Indians add depth to bullpen with VandenHurk

Indians add depth to bullpen with VandenHurk

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians added another arm to the pitching staff on Wednesday, claiming right-hander Rick VandenHurk off waivers from the Blue Jays.

With some question marks surrounding Cleveland's bullpen situation, the Tribe plans on throwing VandenHurk into the mix for one of the available relief roles. Over the offseason, the right-hander nearly signed with the Indians.

"I did also talk to Cleveland," VandenHurk told reporters before leaving Toronto's camp in Florida. "They were very interested, so I'm not overly surprised. I haven't really talked to them yet, so I have to wait and see what they tell me."

The Indians have two of their regular relievers -- closer Chris Perez and lefty Rafael Perez -- working their way back from injuries. On Wednesday, Chris Perez (strained left oblique) threw a live batting-practice session and Rafael Perez (left shoulder soreness) was scheduled to appear in his first Cactus League game.

Cleveland is optimistic about their chances of being ready in time for Opening Day, but having more depth can act as a kind of insurance policy. Beyond the ongoing health woes, the Indians have also had subpar performances for the most part this spring from the handful of candidates for the two available bullpen jobs.

Arms in the mix include Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray, Jeremy Accardo and Robinson Tejeda. Herrmann, Hagadone and now VandenHurk are the only pitchers in that group who are on the 40-man roster. Potentially complicating matters is the fact that VandenHurk is out of Minor League options.

To clear room on their 40-man roster for VandenHurk, the Indians designated lefty Kelvin De La Cruz for assignment -- for the second time this spring. Cleveland initially designated De La Cruz before trading him to Texas on Feb. 21. The Tribe reacquired De La Cruz on March 15 for cash considerations.

VandenHurk, 26, has pitched in parts of five big leagues seasons with the Marlins and Orioles, going 8-10 with a 5.97 ERA in 46 games (35 starts). The righty spent the bulk of the 2011 season with Triple-A Norfolk, where he went 9-13 with a 4.43 ERA. He signed a big league contract with Toronto on Feb. 22 after being released by Baltimore.

This spring, VandenHurk has a 9.95 ERA in four Grapefruit League games. He has three strikeouts, six walks and 10 hits allowed in 6 1/3 innings.

"I had a challenging spring," VandenHurk said. "They had to make a decision. They made a decision and Cleveland picked me up."