Sometimes in baseball the little things mean a lot. For the Cleveland Indians about 24 hours prior to their season opener in Oakland against the Oakland A’s, the team made two minor moves that in the end could pay dividends into the 2014 season. The club came to terms with catcher George Kottaras on a Minor League contract and also inked right-hander Mark Lowe on a minor league deal. Lowe was most recently with the Tampa Bay Rays and last week was given his release.
Kottaras was in camp with the Chicago Cubs, but he was let go last Wednesday. The catcher has a history with Indians manager Terry Francona, playing for him while with the Boston Red Sox during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He’s also had time with the Milwaukee Brewers, A’s and Kansas City Royals. Last season the lefty hit .180 with five homers and 12 runs batted in for Kansas City, but he is coming to the Indians more for his glove and education behind the plate than his stick.
The Indians are taking a bit of a chance in starting the season by declaring that with Carlos Santana playing at third, the team will have just one true catcher on the roster, that being the freshly signed to a new deal Yan Gomes. Kottaras’ signing gives the club some needed depth at a position that just never seems to have enough healthy bodies. Catchers get beat up on a daily basis with foul tips, bad pitches and just the stress of having to kneel for nine innings.
With the signing of Lowe, the Tribe adds another arm to a bullpen that will have plenty of new faces to start the 2014 season. Lowe had a tough 2013 with the Los Angeles Angels with a 9.26 ERA in 11 appearances, walking 11 and striking out seven. He did show promise with the Rays this spring, allowing just one run in 10.1 innings with 12 strikeouts. He gives the Indians a righty option if they run into issues or some of the players at the Major League level struggle early in the season.
The Indians have always looked for players they can pick up who may be coming off poor seasons or may be somewhat projects. Two players it paid off big-time for last season were Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn, two hard-nosed guys who are again on the 2014 roster.