CLEVELAND – The Indians moved quickly to take precautions against the uncertain future of Fausto Carmona.
With Carmona still detained in the Dominican Republic, Cleveland acquired starting pitcher Kevin Slowey and cash considerations Friday in a trade with Colorado for minor league reliever Zach Putnam. Carmona, the Indians’ opening day starter last year, was arrested Thursday on false identity charges that claim his real name is Roberto Hernandez Heredia and that he is 31-years-old and not 28, as listed in Cleveland’s media guide.
Though general manager Chris Antonetti said the Indians have had longtime interest in Slowey, a right-hander who went 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA for Minnesota last year, it was clear that Carmona’s sticky status played a part in the acquisition.
“For a lot of reasons, this made sense,” Antonetti said of the Slowey trade. “There’s obviously some uncertainty with Fausto’s situation, but we’ve looked to improve the team any way possible this offseason. We feel that we’ve added and improved our starting pitching alternatives. But, certainly, with Fausto’s situation, it lends more clarity to (Slowey) having a chance to make the major league roster.”
As he works through visa problems in the Dominican, Carmona is not likely to arrive on time for spring training. Cleveland’s pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Goodyear, Ariz., Feb. 19.
According to Antonetti, Slowey, 27, will enter training camp competing for Carmona’s spot in the rotation, presumably against right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and lefty David Huff. Slowey does have a minor league option available.
Antonetti would not discuss Carmona’s situation directly, but said that manager Manny Acta has spoken with the pitcher and that the Indians have been in touch with Carmona’s legal representatives in the Dominican.
“We’re going to continue to refrain from commenting (on Carmona) until we have a little bit more clarity,” Antonetti said.
The Associated Press reported Friday afternoon that Carmona offered a tearful apology after being released on bail of around $13,000.
“I ask for the forgiveness of my fans, the government of the United States and the Cleveland Indians for this situation,” Carmona said.
According to the AP story, lawyers for Carmona said the pitcher would speak in more detail at a later news conference, but there is no indication as to when he will be able to return to America. A judge ordered him not to leave the Dominican as the investigation into his case continues.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez reported that the family of the real Fausto Carmona turned the pitcher in after he refused to increase the amount of money he was paying them to keep his identity a secret.
Meanwhile, Slowey joins Cleveland’s shell-shocked fold with five years of big league experience – all with Central Division rival Minnesota.
His 2011 season was derailed by oblique and shoulder injuries, but in three straight years prior to that, Slowey posted double-digit win totals while pitching out of the Twins rotation. He owns a career 39-29 record and 4.66 ERA in 100 games (90 starts), with an 18-10 mark and 4.93 ERA against Central Division opponents – 6-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 11 starts against Cleveland (3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts at Progressive Field).
“He struggled with minor injuries last year but we feel he has the ability to get back to where he’s been in the past and help our major league team,” said Antonetti, who indicated that Slowey is not a candidate for the final spot in the bullpen.
Minnesota traded Slowey to Colorado in December for a player to be named, with Slowey signing a one-year contract worth $2.7 million to avoid arbitration with the Rockies. Colorado is responsible for $1.25 million of Slowey’s 2012 contract.
The 24-year-old Putnam, Cleveland’s fifth-round draft pick in 2008, spent the majority of last season at Triple-A Columbus, where he went 6-3 with a 3.65 ERA and nine saves in 44 games. He appeared in eight games for the Indians, going 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA.
The Indians also continued to bolster their outfield depth Friday, signing Ryan Spilborghs to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp. Spilborghs, a career .272 hitter in seven seasons with Colorado, was a starter in 2009-10, but battled injuries last year and batted just .210 in 98 games.
Cleveland will have 12 outfielders in camp this spring, including projected starters Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley.
The Indians lost out in their bid to sign free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena, who agreed to a one-year deal with his former team Tampa Bay on Friday worth $7.25 million. There have been reports that Cleveland outbid the Rays, but there have been other reports that the Indians made no offer at all.
In search of a first baseman, Cleveland could now turn its attention to Casey Kotchman, who played first for the Rays last year after Pena left to sign a one-year contract with the Cubs. He hit .306 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 146 games. Free agents Carlos Lee and Derek Lee are also free agents at the position.
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