Meet the NRIs: Pitchers

A cursory look at the Indians' depth chart will tell you that the Indians probably won't be bringing a Non-Roster Invitee with them when they break camp. Even the seventh reliever spot should be a battle between pitchers on the 40-man roster.

But that doesn't mean that they should be ignored. Many of these players have some major-league experience, and will remain with the organization as useful depth, ready to fill a spot in a pinch. Some are prospects getting a taste of a Major-League camp, and could see action later this season.

 

Pitcher Throws Age 2008 Level  Organization IP ERA H SO BB
Greg Aquino RHP 31 MLB BAL 9.1 12.54 17 9 9
31 AAA BAL 25.2 2.45 23 29 6
Jack Cassel RHP 28 MLB HOU 30.1 5.64 38 14 8
28 AAA HOU 107.1 3.69 113 72 30
Vinnie Chulk RHP 30 MLB SF 31.2 4.83 33 16 8
30 AAA SF 24.2 3.65 25 21 13
Ryan Edell LHP 25 AA  CLE 144.1 3.80 146 99 21
Matt Herges RHP 39 MLB COL 64.1 4.60 79 46 24
David Huff LHP 24 AAA CLE 80.2 3.01 68 81 15
24 AA CLE 65.2 1.92 44 62 14
Tomo Ohka RHP 32 AAA CHW 135.2 4.18 146 112 35
Kirk Saarloos RHP 30 MLB OAK 26.1 4.05 37 12 4
30 AAA OAK 140.2 4.22 150 79 36

Starters:

The Indians have seven healthy major-league starters on their 40-man roster, so these guys are fighting for the opportunity to snag a starting job with the Columbus Clippers.

Tomo Ohka and Kirk Saarloos could be useful if the Indians need an emergency starter, but both are very marginal options at this point in their careers. Jack Cassel (yes, he's the brother of Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel) made appearances for the Padres and Astros in the past two seasons after mediocre seasons for their respective AAA affiliates. Cassel's fastball tops out at 90 mph, and he complements it with a slider and a chageup. I doubt all three stay with the organization after Spring Training, especially with starting depth already present in the high minors.

David Huff is the Indians' best pitching prospect, and if he doesn't make the rotation out of Spring Training, and in my opinion should be the first starter to be called up.  Ryan Edell will be fighting for a AAA rotation spot after a solid season with the Aeros in 2008.

Relievers:

With the Indians acquiring Kerry Wood and Joe Smith during the winter, the bullpen looks just about set  if you assume that Adam Miller is making the club. That's with John Meloan, Rich Rundles, and Edward Mujica, all on the roster, as worthy reserves. So with no bullpen spots up for grabs, the Indians weren't an attractive club for marginal relievers to sign with this winter, and it shows.

In fact, I'd argue that the Indians need to have a long man in their bullpen this season, as they'll be featuring several younger pitchers not accustomed to going deep into games. So if one of their projected bullpen regulars go down, a starter like Zach Jackson would make more sense than one of the following retreads.

Greg Aquino had some initial success with Diamondbacks in 2004, but has been either ineffective or injured since. Vinnie Chulk is the most interesting of the NRI relievers; he had a couple decent seasons with Toronto, and is effective against right-handers. Unfortunately for him, the Indians already have their righty specialist in Joe Smith. Matt Herges was terrible with the Rockies last season, and it wasn't just because of Coors; he gave up 36 hits in 29.2 road innings. He's never pitched in the American League, but I don't think pitchers have that much of an advantage any more in changing leagues.

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