GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cody Allen was ready to close for the Indians after the club cut ties with Chris Perez over the offseason. The young right-hander also prepared himself for the possibility that Cleveland might go in a different direction.
The Indians then signed John Axford to be their new closer and Allen accepted that he would return to the setup role he filled so well last season.
"I was [ready to close]," Allen said. "But I also know that [manaager Terry Francona] is going to put us in the best position to succeed -- individually and as a team. So, if that's me closing, or pitching the eighth, or the seventh -- whatever it is -- he's going to put me in a position to succeed and help the team win."
Francona said part of the reason Cleveland signed Axford was due to Allen's ability to be a kind of stopper for critical points prior to the ninth inning.
"There's no doubt Cody could handle being a closer," Francona said. "So could [Bryan] Shaw. But you can win and lose games before the ninth. [Allen would] come in with men on base. Your closer has the luxury of coming in and starting a clean inning."
In 77 games for Cleveland last season, the 25-year-old Allen fashioned a 2.43 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 26 walks in 70 1/3 innings. Allen's 88 strikeouts were the most by a Tribe reliever since 1999 (Paul Shuey, 103) and his 77 appearances were the second-highest single-season total in team history (Bobby Howry had 79 in 2005).
Allen held hitters to a .205 average with runners in scoring position, a .232 average with runners on base and a .154 average with the bases loaded.
"We talked over the offseason," said Allen, referring to Francona. "He explained things to me and I'm totally on board. There was no, 'Why are we doing this?' Or, 'I dont think we should do this.' I trust him. Whatever role I'm pitching in, it's because that's what's better for the team."
Francona likes Allen right where he is for now.
"Whenever we were in a bind, we went to Cody," Francona said. "Really, whether it was against a lefty or a righty, when the game was on the line, we went to Cody. I think that when you dole out bullpen roles, I don't think that necessarily has to be an inning. ... You want to leverage your best pitchers in the situations where there game is on the line."