The back end of the Cleveland Indians‘ bullpen has been inconsistent to say the least so far this year. The Tribe desperately needed to stabilize that situation, and Terry Francona didn’t have to look very far to find a solution.
Bryan Shaw (1.57 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) and Scott Atchison (1.42 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) have performed exceptionally well in their middle relief roles, and the Indians are now looking to them to help out in the late innings. Shaw and fellow reliever Cody Allen have been taking on the closer role with John Axford‘s recent demotion. Atchison has been setting up those two in the seventh and eighth innings.
Atchison has always been a favorite of Francona’s, having pitched for a couple of Tito’s Boston Red Sox teams in 2011 and 2012. Once Atchison’s contract was non-tendered by the New York Mets last November, the Indians signed the 38-year-old reliever to a minor league deal with an invitation to the Indians’ Spring Training. Atchison performed well and ended up making the major league club.
It was a low-risk move for the Indians, who needed to replace a few departures from last year’s bullpen. Matt Albers was a key reliever for the Indians in 2013 who was great at inducing ground balls (he signed with the Houston Astros this offseason), so finding a similar ground-ball pitcher would be ideal. Atchison has filled that void and then some, surpassing all expectations.
Shaw wasn’t very highly regarded either, but he definitely isn’t anything to overlook now. Basically a throw-in with the Trevor Bauer–Shin-Soo Choo trade two offseasons ago, Shaw has proved very valuable to the Tribe. He has been able to pitch in any situation in which the Indians have needed him, and is currently also receiving some save opportunities.
Shaw and Atchison been a huge part of the Tribe bullpen this year, and have responded well to the increased responsibility (they have pitched the most and second-most relief innings, respectively). They will need to continue that success while some other relievers work to get back to form.