DETROIT — The Indians made it official Friday, signing veteran left-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a minor league contract.
Romero, a 14-year veteran with 680 career big league appearances, will report to Triple-A Columbus but could be promoted soon. Cleveland’s bullpen is scuffling and without injured closer Chris Perez.
News that the Indians were interested in acquiring Romero surfaced Monday.
Romero, 37, had spent the entire season at Triple-A Syracuse, the minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals. He went 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 games before opting out of his minor league deal with the Nats for free agency.
Romero is best known by Indians fans for his days as a key member of Central Division rival Minnesota’s bullpen. He was drafted by the Twins in 1997 and spent the first six seasons of his big league career with Minnesota.
The Indians signed Romero to a minor league contract last year, but he never appeared for them. He instead made 16 appearances with the Cardinals and Orioles, posting a 9.00 ERA.
Cleveland’s relief corps, a strength the past two seasons, ranked 27th in the majors with a 4.44 ERA through Thursday.
Romero’s addition could address the struggles of the left-handers in the bullpen — Rich Hill and Nick Hagadone. Hill entered Friday with an 8.10 ERA in 23 games, while Hagadone was at 6.89 over 18 appearances. Lefty Scott Barnes has also spent time in Cleveland, owning a 7.27 ERA through six games.
Versatile left fielder Michael Brantley was in the cleanup spot, with first baseman Nick Swisher taking over for injured shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (right quad strain) in the No. 3 hole in the series opener against Detroit on Friday.
Brantley has made 54 starts, batting in every spot in the order except ninth.
“He’s the one guy that we can move around because he’s such a professional hitter,” manager Terry Francona said.
Hitting the links
Francona spent the off-day Thursday in Michigan, golfing at renowned Oakland Hills Country Club — the site of past U.S. Open, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup tournaments.
“You can’t pass that up. I played with (television announcer) Rick Manning, so that takes away some of the fun, but on that course you take even bad company,” Francona joked.
Francona said he shot 84, which is impressive, considering he said he didn’t putt well.
It was a needed off-day for the Indians, who had played 20 straight days.
The Indians selected eight players during the second day (rounds three through 10) of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on Friday.
With its third-round pick — 79th overall — Cleveland took pitcher Dace Kime, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander out of the University of Louisville. Kime, a Defiance High School graduate, was drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2010, but did not sign.
The Indians also selected LHP Kyle Crockett (fourth round, University of Virginia); LHP Sean Brady (fifth round, Ida S. Baker High School, Fla.); RHP Casey Shane (sixth round, Centennial High School, Texas); LHP Kenny Matthews (seventh round, Riverside City College, Calif.); RHP Trevor Frank (eighth round, University of California Riverside); LHP Thomas Pannone (ninth round, College of Southern Nevada); INF Ross Kivett (10th round, Kansas State University).
Kivett is a Broadview Heights native and Lakewood St. Edward graduate.
The three-day draft wraps up today with rounds 11-40.
The Indians are 12-18 on the road.
** Third baseman Mark Reynolds was batting .171 (7-for-41) with a homer and an RBI over his last 12 games through Thursday.
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