Borowski should bring stability to 'pen
Other roles could fall in line for Tribe with closer's return
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Eric Wedge has long talked about the volatility of a team's bullpen from season to season. Nothing has shown how prophetic Wedge is any better than the performance of his bullpen this season.
A year ago, the 'pen was the bedrock of Wedge's pitching staff; this season, it has been the staff's Achilles' heel, ranking 12th in the American League with a 4-8 record and a 4.58 ERA.
But the reason for that is something Wedge has said must always be settled: a reliable closer. And the Indians haven't had one.
The injury to Joe Borowski has been the reason.
On April 15, Borowski went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right triceps. His absence left the closer's role in the hands of men with no strong Major League credentials for handling the task.
None of them performed as Borowski had done last season.
So pardon Wedge if he sounded a bit giddy Friday. He had Borowski at his disposal, meaning Wedge could dismantle his unsuccessful closer-by-committee.
The closer's job went back into Borowski's experienced hands -- ready or not.
"Joe will close for us [Friday night]," Wedge said. "Hopefully he'll have an opportunity to do that, and we'll let everything else fall into place beyond that with [Rafael] Betancourt, [Rafael] Perez getting the primary roles."
After two rehab outings, Borowski is rejoining the Indians for the Texas series. The Indians pronounced his right triceps, which he'd strained in Spring Training, as no longer a concern, comforting news for Wedge and his bullpen.
Yet until Borowski takes the ball in a save situation, one question will linger: Is he the pitcher of a season ago or the one from the early days of this season?
For before going on the disabled list, he'd looked nothing like the Borowski who saved 45 games last season. He posted a 0-0 record with an 18.00 ERA. Borowski saved two games, but he blew two saves.
His struggles were blamed on the strained right triceps, which sapped his fastball of velocity.
In his final rehab outing at Double-A Akron, Borowski did display a fastball that had more pep to it. According to reports, the pitch settled in around the mid-80s, a figure about where Borowski threw his fastball last season when he anchored Wedge's bullpen.
"His fastball's a little bit better," Wedge said of Borowski. "His command's a lot better. His arm's working a lot better. So, that's what we wanted to see. We felt like it was time to get him back."
Wedge was glad to have Borowski back, because his return allowed the Indians to put Betancourt, Perez, Masa Kobayashi and Jensen Lewis into their more familiar setup roles.
To make room for Borowski on the 25-man roster, the Indians designated seldom-used left-hander Craig Breslow, whom the Tribe claimed off outright waivers from the Red Sox on March 23, for assignment. They have 10 days to trade, release or assign Breslow, who had a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 innings, to the Minors.
With Borowski back, the Indians have Jake Westbrook (left intercostal strain) within a day or two of coming off the disabled list, too. Westbrook had a rehab outing in Akron on Friday.
His return would force another roster move, and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (injured elbow) is scheduled to come off the disabled list next week as well.
Choo is out of options, so the Indians can't send him back to the Minors without exposing him to waivers.
"We've got some other moves to make," Wedge said. "And they're not very straightforward to be honest with you. I think we can be somewhat creative, so we'll see."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.