GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Indians added another veteran pitcher Sunday afternoon — Matt Belisle — and the 37-year-old right-hander couldn’t be happier to join the reliever race.
Cleveland signed the 14-year veteran to a minor league contract, bringing aboard an experienced bullpen option who ranks ninth among active pitchers with 660 appearances and is excited to play for a contender.
“It was fast and furious,” Belisle said of the signing. “I’ll just say it’s an honor to be wanted by such a great organization and I’m excited about the opportunity. It was quick and I had some tough decisions, but I’m very happy that I’m here.
“Everything inside me, my gut was just calling to this place. This organization is now heralded and has been for quite some time as one of the great places to be. It’s surrounded by very good people, quality up and down. Obviously, this is an intact contending team eager to win a championship. You put quality of personnel and a special clubhouse together with a chance to win a ring, makes it very easy.”
In addition to experience and consistency, manager Terry Francona discovered Belisle brings an intangible, one that should serve him well in his bid to win a roster spot. There are at the most two openings in the bullpen, with Cleveland signing veteran Carlos Torres to a minor league deal last week.
“Of all the guys that we’ve probably talked to, he comes as highly regarded as a teammate-type guy,” Francona said of Belisle, who owns a career 51-57 record and 4.19 ERA and went 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 62 appearances for the Twins last year. “His reputation is just spotless, as a teammate, as a competitor.”
Francona recalled last year talking to Twins executive vice president Derek Falvey, a former Indians front office member, about Belisle.
“They just thought he was such a presence in that clubhouse,” Francona said. “And just talking to him for the amount I have, he’s a very impressive guy.”
Cleveland is Belisle’s sixth stop in the big leagues.
“It’s just such a great ballclub,” Belisle said. “But I think you can have a great ballclub and not a great clubhouse and some things can be tougher. All I’ve heard about this place is that it’s a group of brothers that are very much together, and I’ve learned that that is paramount in really succeeding.”
Belisle’s 2017 season didn’t begin well, but he bounced back in the second half and served as Minnesota’s closer over the final two months. The Twins granted him free agency Nov. 2.
“Sometimes baseball’s just a grind,” Belisle said. “I did have to make a few adjustments maybe in my attack and my repertoire, but it was just continuing to persevere and utilize a couple different strategies, I suppose, maybe a couple different usage of some pitches. I just tried to simplify and just get a little angry.”
While awaiting offers in a cold free agent market, Belisle trained with other players in Fort Worth at the Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Surgery.
“I sort of tried to practice like spring training so to speak and just get ready,” he said. “But I enjoyed the preparation for it and I did everything I could do to not be anything but ready.”
If Belisle makes the club, he will join a bullpen that has been one of the best in the majors the past two seasons, headlined by left-hander Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen.
“It feels like (we’re) ready to win a World Series,” Belisle said. “When you’re around a good crew that’s already been there and done it, it exudes confidence in a fundamental base of people who know how to get outs.”