MIAMI -- The Indians have struggled to get consistent production from their left-handed relievers this season, but the club feels that is improving.
Veteran lefty Rich Hill has been performing better of late for the Tribe, and the team also recently acquired lefty Marc Rzepczynski in a trade with the Cardinals. Rzepczynski helps add a second option for the bullpen, but manager Terry Francona said Hill's recent outings were especially encouraging.
"That's been huge," Francona said. "When he's throwing the way he throws, it complements our bullpen. Not only are you getting key outs, but you're not having Cody [Allen] or [Bryan] Shaw face guys they're not supposed to face."
On the season, Hill has a 6.07 ERA, but the left-hander has posted a 3.29 ERA with a .130 opponents' batting average over his past 22 appearances. During that recent stretch, left-handed hitters have gone just 3-for-21 (.103) against Hill.
In the seventh inning of Friday's 10-0 loss to the Marlins, Francona got his first look at Rzepczynski, who was reeled in from the Cardinals on Tuesday in exchange for Class A infielder Juan Herrera. Rzepczynski faced three batters, with two groundouts and a flyout.
"We got him mostly to face lefties," Francona said. "With the situation in the game, he faced all righties, but his velocity was good. He threw a couple pretty good breaking balls. When he missed, he missed so far out of the zone that it wasn't like a hanger. It was actually kind of what we expected stuff-wise.
"There's a lot to like there. It'll be interesting to kind of see where it goes. He's a guy that is controllable for the next couple of years [through 2015], and he's a lefty that throws well. I think it's a nice addition to our organization."
One reason that adding Rzepczynski to the fold helps the Indians is the ongoing struggles of lefty Nick Hagadone, who is currently at Triple-A Columbus. In 28 games with Cleveland this year, Hagdone posted a 5.33 ERA. Through 16 games at Triple-A, the 27-year-old lefty had a 2.61 ERA, but had issued 16 walks in 20 2/3 innings.
"It's a little big inconsistent, which is I guess disappointing in a way," Francona said of Hagadone. "Because you desperately want Nick to be so good. We all feel like it's there. I think eventually it'll come out. I don't know when, but when it does, it's going to be exciting. And rather than be frustrated and trade a guy, we'd much rather persevere through it and, when the light comes on, have him be here.
"I think for a while when he was pitching here he was pitching to not get sent down. You tell guys not to do that, but some guys handle it better than others. That's just kind of the way it is when you have options and things like that. It affects some guys more than others."