Indians, Spilborghs agree to Minor League deal
Outfielder, infielder Petit both sign, get invites to Spring Training
CLEVELAND -- The Indians continued to add to their contingency plans for the outfield Friday, agreeing to sign free agent Ryan Spilborghs to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to attend Spring Training with the Tribe.
Spilborghs gives Cleveland 12 outfielders -- including left-handed-hitting starters Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo -- in camp with the club this spring. That number might still grow with additional signings or more invites. Spilborghs would be one of five right-handed hitters within that group.
Last season, the Indians were forced to fight through extended stretches without their primary outfielders. Left fielder Brantley (right hand), center fielder Sizemore (both knees plus hernia surgery) and right fielder Choo (left hand and left oblique) combined to miss 193 days with seven stints on the disabled list.
All three are expected to be ready for Spring Training. Sizemore, who was cleared to resume baseball activities last week, has started a throwing and running program.
Having a right-handed option on the bench will be strongly considered this spring, with the top two candidates for the fourth job seemingly Aaron Cunningham or Shelley Duncan, who are both on the 40-man roster and out of Minor League options.
Duncan might also wind up in the mix for first base, depending on how Cleveland's pursuit for another hitter shakes out in the coming weeks. The Indians had strong interest in free agent Carlos Pena, but he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Rays on Friday. The Tribe remains interested in free agent Casey Kotchman.
This winter, the Indians have addressed the outfield by adding Cunningham via a trade with the Padres and by signing Felix Pie and Fred Lewis (both lefty hitters) to Minor League contracts. Chad Huffman, who competed for a reserve role last spring, was extended an invitation to Spring Training as well.
Other outfielders who will be in camp include Ezequiel Carrera, Thomas Neal and Nick Weglarz, though those three will most likely begin the year in the Minor Leagues.
Spilborghs, 32, is coming off a subpar season with the Rockies. In 98 games, he hit just .210 with a .283 on-base percentage, three homers and 22 RBIs. Spilborghs had two stints on the disabled list due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot -- an injury that landed him on the 60-day DL on Sept. 11.
Across seven Major League seasons, Spilborghs has hit .272 with a .345 on-base percentage and a .423 slugging percentage. Arguably his best campaign was 2010, when he hit .279 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 134 games for Colorado. Spilborgh's similar career splits against righties (.271 average/.747 OPS) and lefties (.273/.799).
The Indians have also agreed to sign infielder Gregorio Petit to a Minor League contract, extending him a non-roster invitation to Spring Training as well. As things currently stand, Cleveland projects to have 19 non-roster invitees (including Spilborghs and Petit) in camp this spring.
Besides Petit, other infielders added as non-roster Minor League signings include Jose Lopez and Andy LaRoche.
The 27-year-old Petit -- released by San Diego in February -- missed all of last season after suffering a serious knee injury in winter ball. This offseason, the right-handed-hitting infielder hit .238 in 30 games with Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. Pettit has experience at second base, shortstop and third base and played 25 games with the A's between the 2008 and 2009 seasons.