Indians get a Hand when new relievers join them after break
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — All-Star closer Brad Hand kept hearing his name in trade talk last year, when the lefty ended up staying with the San Diego Padres and got a new contract during the offseason.
This time, Hand has switched teams and could have a bit of a different role than the one he had in the National League.
“Going into this year, I didn’t really think it was going to happen after last year,” Hand said Friday in the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse. “So I was obviously a little bit surprised. But my name was out there and talked about. ... (The Padres) got a deal worth taking.”
Hand and rookie right-handed sidearmer Adam Cimber joined the AL Central-leading Indians in time for the first game after the All-Star break, and both pitched Friday night against the Texas Rangers. Cleveland traded switch-hitting catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the Padres on Thursday to get the two relievers.
Joey Gallo hit his 23rd homer, a towering, two-run drive to right-center in the seventh that got the Rangers within 7-6 when he was the first batter to face Hand in an Indians uniform.
Hand retired his next three batters and was followed by Cimber, who gave up a one-out single before inducing a double-play grounder to end the eighth.
Cody Allen worked the ninth, but gave up solo homers on consecutive pitches to Robinson Chirinos and Gallo for an 8-8 tie that sent the game to extra innings. It was only Allen’s second blown save in 22 chances this season.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona had told both new relievers before the game that he planned to get them in quickly and they “won’t feel new for very long.” Francona also spoke with Hand about his role after the lefty had 24 saves in 29 chances for the Padres.
The Indians have been without left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, a two-time All-Star, since late May because of right knee inflammation. But they do still have Allen to close games.
“I told (Hand) my biggest thing is, keep their workloads even. If that means flip-flopping sometimes, we can,” Francona said. “I’d like for the most part for Cody to close games for us, and use Hand and Cimber more in relief, fireman-type, because I think we can leverage them.”
Hand said he is comfortable pitching in whatever role Francona chooses for him.
Miller is scheduled to make his third minor league rehab appearance Sunday. Francona said Miller will probably need to pitch at least two or three more times before being activated, but he is making good progress.
“He’s working on his pitching, and he’s not so much thinking about his knee and where he’s landing and things like that,” Francona said. “He’s definitely trending in the right way.”
Miller and Allen are eligible for free agency after this season. Hand is in the first year of a $19.75 million, three-year contract he signed with the Padres in the offseason that includes a team option for 2021. Cimber is also under long-term control.
Hand and Cimber went from the bottom of the NL West standings into first place with the Indians, who lost in the Division Series to the New York Yankees last season after losing a seven-game World Series to the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
“Just going to try to do whatever I can to help out,” said Hand, who has never been to the playoffs during a career spent with the Marlins (2011-15) and Padres (2016-18). “Obviously they’re in first place right now. It’s going to be fun for sure.”
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