On Thursday, Cleveland acquired right-hander Jairo Asencio from the Braves in exchange for cash, throwing another arm into the mix for one of two available bullpen jobs. The Indians designated reliever Henricus van den Hurk for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for Asencio, who is expected to arrive in Goodyear, Ariz., within the next few days.
"It's a guy that our scouts have liked for quite a while," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He's got a good fastball, a good slider, a track record of pitching late in games in the Minor Leagues and some good strikeout rates as well. He's had a history of missing bats.
"He'll come in and try to win one of those last spots in the 'pen."
This spring, the 27-year-old Asencio struck out 12 batters in 11 Grapefruit League innings, posting a 3.27 ERA across 10 appearances. He is out of options, meaning he would need to clear waivers if the Indians decide they want assign him to a Minor League affiliate.
As things stand, the only virtual locks for bullpen jobs are closer Chris Perez, setup men Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp, sidearmer Joe Smith and lefty Rafael Perez. Cleveland's other bullpen candidates include Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Dan Wheeler, Jeremy Accardo, Chris Ray and Robinson Tejeda.
Asencio spent the bulk of last season with Triple-A Gwinnett, going 3-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 26 saves in 47 games. He amassed 70 strikeouts against 22 walks over 54 2/3 innings. In the process, Asencio limited International League hitters to a .196 average.
In two brief stints in the Majors with Atlanta in 2009 and 2011, Asencio posted a 6.23 ERA in nine games. This past offseason, Asencio had a 1.07 ERA and 10 saves for Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League before capturing the Caribbean Series Most Valuable Player honor by saving three games.
Asencio has led the International League in saves twice (2009 and '11) and has gone 42-44 with a 3.68 ERA in 303 career Minor League games between tours in the Pirates and Braves organizations. The right-hander -- formerly known as Luis Valdez -- missed the entire 2010 campaign due to visa problems.
"We're obviously aware of it," Antonetti said of Asencio's past visa issues. "We've certainly done our due diligence. He cleared all immigration obstacles of getting over to the United States, so we view those issues to be in the past and don't anticipate him having any problems moving forward."