Indians GM just 2 of 4 on veteran picks for bullpen in off season

Chris Beaven

No one bats a thousand in baseball, including general managers.

Indians GM Mark Shapiro’s offseason average for finding bullpen help sits at .500 after veteran reliever Roberto Hernandez was designated for assignment Wednesday in one of two moves made by the team.

The Indians also placed outfielder David Dellucci on the 15-day disabled list. Their roster spots were filled by outfielder Ben Francisco and reliever Edward Mujica, though the latter’s stay in the bullpen could be brief. But more on that later.

The departure of Hernandez leaves the Indians with just two of the four veteran relievers signed by Shapiro in the offseason. Aaron Fultz, Joe Borowski and Keith Foulke also were brought in to stabilize a bullpen that struggled in 2006.

Foulke retired before spring training got rolling, and Hernandez never got going this season. Borowski and Fultz, though, have pitched well, with Borowski becoming the closer, a role the Indians needed to fill.

“The success of Joe Borowski outweighs the others,” Shapiro said.

Hernandez leaves with a 6.23 ERA and opponents hitting .308 against him in 28 games.

“We were never able to get him locked in and on track,” Manager Eric Wedge said.

Still, Shapiro called it “a very difficult decision.”

“Difficult because of our respect for him and difficult because of the role he plays in our clubhouse.” But the GM is “confident it’s the right decision.”

Hernandez is a 15-year veteran whose 326 career saves ranked him 14th all-time entering the season. He signed for just one season, with a club option for 2008. Shapiro signed Borowski, Foulke and Fultz to similar deals. The unpredictability of relievers is why Shapiro emphasizes short-term commitments to them.

“Mistakes are made in the bullpen not by signing contracts but by signing long-term contracts,” he said. “I didn’t expect to hit a thousand on those four guys, and we certainly didn’t.”

Borowski has 20 saves, and Fultz has a 1.80 ERA in 31 appearances. Still, the Indians bullpen as a whole has been inconsistent.

“I know (Rafael) Betancourt and Borowski have been great for us,” Shapiro said. “It’s a question of us getting more alternatives to pitch in the eighth.”

MORE COMING  The Indians will need to make another move this weekend in advance of starter Jake Westbrook rejoining the rotation Sunday. Shapiro said Mujica likely will be the odd-man out with the emergence of left-hander Jason Stanford during the last week. Stanford, after two positive starts, will pitch long relief. “Stanford provides us with invaluable depth,” Shapiro said. “He represents our next best alternative as a starter. He’s done a very capable and solid job up here.”

INJURY UPDATE  Dellucci goes on the DL with a strained left hamstring suffered Tuesday. Wedge said it is severe and “just a matter of to what degree.” The team is awaiting an MRI and should have more news Friday.

WELCOME ABOARD  Francisco joins the club after hitting .329 at Triple-A Buffalo with 18 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs. He also had 15 steals. Wedge said he’s done a good job hitting both left- and right-handers. Francisco will join the corner outfield mix with Jason Michaels, Trot Nixon and Franklin Gutierrez. “We’re not putting a specific plan in place except to use all those guys and take it day by day,” Wedge said.

NOT AN OPTION  Right-hander Cliff Politte, coming off rotator cuff surgery, experienced shoulder soreness Saturday with Double-A Akron. He will not pitch in a game for 10 to 14 days. Shapiro said the soreness is not uncommon after the surgery Politte had. Shapiro said Politte could be ready to pitch for the Indians in early August.

BEWARE OF PRONK  Shapiro did not sound too concerned about the recent struggles of DH Travis Hafner, who has no homers and only two extra-base hits in June. He is hitting .243 since May 17. “(Hafner) is a dominant hitter struggling and working hard,” Shapiro said. “He’ll find his way out, and when he does, someone is going to pay.”

TRADE TALK  When asked how the trade market is shaping up, Shapiro said it was “too early to answer that.” Improving the bullpen is a priority, and Shapiro said the Indians will look within and outside the organization to do that. “There’s a large number of teams with bullpen issues,” he said. And with few quality relievers likely available, “that makes it a tough market.”

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail: