CLEVELAND — The Indians believe they’ve found the right reliever to fix their issue against left-handed hitters.
Cleveland acquired lefty Marc Rzepczynski from St. Louis on Tuesday, adding an experienced veteran to a bullpen that has struggled all season to retire lefties. The Indians’ left-handers have a 6.47 ERA.
To get Rzepczynski (Zep-chin-skee), the Indians, who began the night trailing first-place Detroit by 2½ games in the AL Central, sent minor league infielder Juan Herrera to the Cardinals.
“He’s been very effective at getting left-handed hitters out at the major league level,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said of Rzepczynski, who has been nicknamed “Scrabble” by previous teammates who struggle to pronounce or spell his name. “In addition to that, he has postseason experience and has pitched in some very pressurized games and games we aspire to play in.
“We think he addresses a need both in the short and long-term for the organization and he’ll fit in very well.”
The 27-year-old is 9-17 with a 4.20 ERA in 177 career games for Toronto and St. Louis. Left-handed hitters have batted .224 against Rzepczynski, who pitched 2 2-3 scoreless innings for the champion Cardinals in the 2011 World Series.
Rzepczynski has split this season between St. Louis and Triple-A Memphis, posting a 7.84 ERA in 11 games at the major league level. But in the minors, he’s got a 3.07 ERA in 32 games and held lefties to a .185 average.
“He’s only given up two extra-base hits on the year to left-handed hitters and only eight combined in two years,” Antonetti said. “He hasn’t been quite as successful at the major league level this year, but it’s a very small sample. He has a good fastball, he gets ground balls. He’s been a guy we’ve had interest in for quite a while. We liked him when he was with Toronto.”
The Indians’ only other current left-handed reliever is Rich Hill. However, this season they’ve had lefties Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone and David Huff pitch in relief but they were all sent back to the minors because of ineffectiveness.
Antonetti said it’s possible the Indians could make another move before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline.
“We’re still working to try and improve the team, and if we think there are guys out there who will improve upon the options we have we’ll explore it,” Antonetti said. “But we do feel confident that Marc can help our team and he’ll be part of hopefully a push to the playoffs. There’s a lot that can happen in 24 hours.”
Antonetti does not yet know when Rzepczynski will join the Indians.
Herrera batted .275 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 39 games for Class A Mahoning Valley. He will be assigned to State College (Pa.) of the Class-A New York-Penn League.