CLEVELAND -- Joba Chamberlain has warmed up to the idea of pitching in Cleveland. It is yet to be determined if the reliever will toss a can of bug spray in his equipment bag when he heads to camp with the Indians in 2016.
On Tuesday, the Indians announced that the club has signed Chamberlain to a Minor League contract that includes a non-roster invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club. Chamberlain will compete for a spot in the Tribe's bullpen, providing the Indians with a veteran arm who boasts postseason experience.
As Indians fans know all too well, though, there is one postseason experience Chamberlain would probably like to forget.
Chamberlain was at the center of the infamous "Bug Game" in Cleveland during the American League Division Series in 2007, when he was a hard-throwing rookie sensation for the Yankees. In Game 2, New York was clinging to a 1-0 lead when a swarm of midges hovered around the mound, causing a brief delay, disrupting Chamberlain and possibly contributing to his blown save that night.
On the other side of the equation, former Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez (known as Fausto Carmona at the time) maintained his composure and logged nine brilliant innings in an eventual 2-1, 11-inning victory for Cleveland. The game instantly became a part of Indians lore, and a small plaque honoring the contest exists outside the center-field gate at Progressive Field.
After announcing the signing, the Indians tweeted an apology to Chamberlain about the bugs.
We apologize sincerely, @Joba_44, about the bugs. They won't be back, we promise.
Last season, the 30-year-old Chamberlain split his time in the Tigers, Blue Jays and Royals organizations. Overall, the reliever turned in a 4.88 ERA with 23 strikeouts and nine walks in 27 2/3 innings in the Majors, allowing an .848 OPS to right-handed batters and a 1.073 OPS to lefties.
He opened with a 1.89 ERA in 26 games with Detroit, despite allowing an .831 OPS to opposing batters. After giving up six runs in his next four appearances, Chamberlain was designated for assignment by the Tigers and later released on July 10. After a stint in the Minors for the Blue Jays, the righty opted out of his contract and signed with the Royals, who called him back to the Majors in September.
It was a step back from 2014, when Chamberlain had a 3.57 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 63 innings in his first season with the Tigers, following a seven-year run with the Yankees. In 2015, Chamberlain's average velocity on all of his pitches, while not at the levels from his prime in New York, was actually a tick up from his readings during the '14 campaign.