CLEVELAND — The Indians have taken some hits to their bullpen this offseason, seeing the departure of two-time All-Star closer Chris Perez, top-shelf setup man Joe Smith and effective right-hander Matt Albers.
Over the past few days, they have taken steps to rebuild a relief corps that has been a strength of the team for years.
On Wednesday, the same day new right-handed closer John Axford was expected to undergo a physical examination in Cleveland, the Indians acquired situational left-hander Josh Outman from the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Drew Stubbs.
Outman, 29, appeared in 61 games for Colorado last year, posting a 4.33 ERA while limiting left-handed hitters to a .198 batting average (.347 against righties). He is expected to fill the role of lefty Rich Hill, another reliever likely to part ways with the Indians this winter.
“You’re going to have some turnover from year to year (in the bullpen),” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “Our job is to put together the best bullpen possible, and I feel we’ve made progress. I feel we’re better than we were at the start of the offseason.”
Antonetti confirmed the Indians had interest in Outman at the trading deadline last year before they acquired lefty Marc Rzepczynski from St. Louis. Rzepczysnki, who posted a 0.87 ERA in 27 games for the Indians, is still on Cleveland’s roster.
“He’s got a good pitch mix, in addition to good velocity on his fastball,” Antonetti said of the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Outman, who throws his fastball in the 91-93 mph range.
Stubbs, Cleveland’s primary starter in right field (.233, 10 HR, 45 RBIs in 146 games), became expendable when the Indians signed outfielder David Murphy at the end of November. Murphy and Ryan Raburn are expected to handle the duties in right to open the 2014 season.
Though Antonetti would not discuss the Axford signing, the Indians reportedly reached a one-year contract worth $4.5 million ($1.75 million in potential incentives) with the right-hander Sunday night. The team could officially announce as much as early as today.
The Canadian-born Axford, 30, hasn’t filled the closer role fulltime since 2012 with the Milwaukee Brewers, when he saved 35 games with a bulky 4.67 ERA. The year before, Axford posted a 1.95 ERA with a National League-leading 46 saves.
Antonetti did talk about the Monday acquisition of veteran right-hander Shaun Marcum, who will come to spring training under a minor league contract as a contender for the fifth spot in the rotation — along with right-handers Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer.
Injuries have limited Marcum to 33 starts over the past two years. He went 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) for the New York Mets in 2013.
“He’s a guy that’s had some injuries lately,” Antonetti said. “But we feel he’s healthy, and the one thing about Shaun is that anytime he’s been healthy, he’s been effective.”
The Indians, who have openings at third base and in the rotation, might not be done tinkering with the bullpen.
“I feel good about the group we have, but there’s a lot of time between now and the end of the offseason,” Antonetti said. “We still need to continue to improve.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.