Hill beneficiary of Tribe's roster moves

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rich Hill's path to the Opening Day bullpen has been paved. On Monday, the Indians selected the left-hander's contract from Triple-A Columbus, moving him from the pool of non-roster invitees to the big league club's 40-man roster.

Barring the unforeseen, that transaction puts Hill in position to break camp with Cleveland as a member of its bullpen. The Indians took a chance on Hill with a Minor League contract after the lefty returned last season from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.

Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed with what he has seen this spring.

"It's a shame, because he had gotten really hot when he got hurt," Francona said of Hill's injury in 2011. "It was probably the best roll of his career, and then last year he had a little setback. But it's pretty obvious he looks healthy. The ball has got a ton of life."

In six Cactus League appearances this spring, the 33-year-old Hill has allowed one unearned run with eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

"To have news like this is obviously good," Hill said. "It's just getting ready for the season now. That's the key thing. You can lock into your routine a little bit more going forward."

Last season, Hill went 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 25 games for the Red Sox after returning from the elbow injury in April. The left-hander missed time between June and August due to a left elbow strain, but finished the season with 21 strikeouts against 11 walks in 19 2/3 innings. Hill also held left-handed hitters to a .209 average.

Hill underwent arm surgery in June 2011 after opening the season with eight shutout innings. Dr. James Andrews performed the operation.

In parts of three seasons with the Red Sox -- Hill pitched under Francona in 2010 and '11 -- the lefty went 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 40 games, during which he had 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 31 2/3 innings. For his career, Hill has gone 23-20 with a 4.59 ERA in 118 games between stints with the Cubs, Orioles and Red Sox. As things currently stand, the Indians' bullpen projects to include closer Chris Perez, setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith, righty Matt Albers (out of Minor League options), and presumably Hill. Others in the mix for jobs include lefties Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes and David Huff (out of options), as well as righties Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Matt Capps (non-roster invite).

To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Hill, Cleveland placed right-hander Blake Wood (right elbow) on the 60-day disabled list. The Indians also optioned Tim Fedroff, Trey Haley, T.J. House, Chen-Chang Lee and Danny Salazar to Triple-A. Non-roster invitees Matt LaPorta, Fernando Nieve and Roberto Perez were optioned to Minor League camp. The Tribe granted outfielder Ben Francisco his unconditional release.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.