Kobayashi deepens Tribe bullpen
November, 21, 2007
Cleveland's setup corps was a strength for the club in 2007, but the Indians are wise not to rest on those laurels given the unpredictability of relief pitching. The Rafaels (Betancourt and Perez) were both worked heavily down the stretch, and the addition of Masahide Kobayashi should help Eric Wedge ease up on his usage of those two pitchers as well as right-hander Jensen Lewis. Kobayashi has good stuff, although his strikeout rates in Japan were so-so due to his lack of a real out pitch. He works with a plus fastball in the 93-96 mph range that he gets on top of, getting good downhill plane, and he has a solid-average slider in the mid-80s with a hard downward break but little tilt; he'll also flash a forkball on occasion, which is a good fit given his release point and could be a good weapon for him against lefties. He's shown excellent control, with just 24 unintentional walks in his last 146 1/3 innings in Japan. The U.S. reliever market is thin and inflated, with players like J.C. Romero, effectively released midyear by Boston, getting three-year deals on the basis of a few good weeks of work. For Cleveland to get a guy with Kobayashi's kind of stuff on just a two-year deal (with a club option for 2010) is a mild bargain, even if he's just a middle guy.