GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Indians have added another arm to the bullpen race, and it’s a proven one.
Cleveland announced Thursday morning it signed right-hander Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
The 35-year-old Torres, who ranks third among major league relievers with 155 innings over the past two seasons and fourth with 3411⁄3 since 2013, will be a strong candidate to win a roster spot.
“He’s in that group of guys that really seems to be having trouble signing,” manager Terry Francona said of the six-year veteran. “I think he threw 75 innings or something last year. He’s been a major league reliever, so we’re excited to get a chance to look at him and he’ll be competing for, hopefully, that one spot.
“Hopefully guys stay healthy and we don’t have multiple (injuries), but he’ll be in competition for that, and we’re excited to have him.”
Torres was at the spring training complex Thursday to take a physical and meet with staff members, including Francona.
His message from the Indians:
“Come in here, work hard. There’s a spot or two in the bullpen. Just go out there and try to win a spot, and whatever happens happens,” Torres said. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s not very often you get a chance to come to one of the best teams in the league. I’m just hoping I can help out with whatever’s needed to be done. This is a great organization. It’s a great place to be.”
Though the consensus has the Indians keeping seven relievers when camp breaks, there is the possibility they will keep eight. They need to find a spot for left-hander Ryan Merritt, who is without minor league options and could be lost if placed on waivers, if he doesn’t win one of the final two openings in the rotation.
Torres followed up a sparkling 2016 season in Milwaukee — 2.73 ERA in 72 appearances — with a subpar one last year (4.21 ERA in 67 appearances). But he’s been an innings eater since 2013, filling multiple relief roles for the Mets and Brewers.
“Whatever they need,” Torres said of his projected role. “If they need a guy to come in early, I’ll come in early. If they need a guy to fill holes, I’ll fill holes. Whatever it is that they need, I can sit here and do it.
“More or less, just be there for the team, whatever your teammates need. There’s times guys are down, guys need a day. You can step in and help them out. If the organization needs me to go back-to-back-to-back, that’s fine, no issues.
“Essentially, just try to do whatever I can to help the team win. That’s what the bullpen does. That’s our role, to fill whatever hole it is that we need to fill that day. So that’s what we do.”
Since returning from a one-year stint in Japan (Yomiuri Giants) in 2011, Torres has pitched solely in the National League. Still, he is familiar with the top-shelf bullpen the Indians have employed since acquiring Andrew Miller during the 2016 season.
“I’ve seen it for a long time. I’ve seen what they have done,” Torres said. “They’re impressive. It’s a really good bullpen. That’s the way it’s set up. It’s all good.
“The starters (pitching), defense, there’s a long list of positives that you can say about this team. It’s a good opportunity. It’s a good place to be.”