GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Joba Chamberlain knew that there was a good chance that he could crack the Indians' bullpen this spring, but the veteran reliever was not going to take anything for granted. He came into camp on a Minor League deal, giving him no guarantees beyond the opportunity to compete.
On Saturday morning, the work Chamberlain put in on and off the field, and his presence in Cleveland's clubhouse, paid off with a memorable call to manager Terry Francona's office. Chamberlain was informed that he will be a part of the Indians' Opening Day bullpen.
"It was my job to lose at the end of the day," Chamberlain said. "Whether you're guaranteed a spot or not, you still have to go in and have a good spring and do things to get better, and make your team better and make yourself better. Coming in, I was going to do everything in my power to make this team, and I just felt I would bring a lot to the ballclub."
Beyond giving the good news to Chamberlain, Francona also had a couple of tough conversations with two more bullpen candidates. Right-hander Austin Adams was optioned to Triple-A Columbus and lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, was told he will not make the team.
If Gorzelanny accepts a Minor League assignment, he would be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus and a June 1 opt-out clause. Left-hander Joe Thatcher, who was told Friday that he will not make the club, is in the same situation. Both relievers need to inform Cleveland of their decision by Tuesday.
"[That was a] tough one. That's hard, like with Thatcher," Francona said of talking to Gorzelanny. "Some of it comes down to a little bit of the makeup of our team. ... We told him, 'You have the right to go look,' which we respect. But, if there's not a Major League opportunity, we'd love to get him to Triple-A with us."
Those moves brought Cleveland's bullpen plans a little more into focus.
Chamberlain will join a bullpen that projects to include closer Cody Allen and setup man Bryan Shaw, along with right-handers Zach McAllister and Jeff Manship. Francona has hinted that the Indians will likely field a seven-man 'pen, with only one lefty. The two left-handers still in the mix are Kyle Crockett (on the 40-man roster) and Ross Detwiler (non-roster invitee). Righty Dan Otero (40-man roster) is also in the running for a job, along with Josh Tomlin, if he does not win the fifth-starter job.
Right-handers Craig Stammen and Tommy Hunter also are in camp, but health issues will keep both pitchers out of the fold until at least late April or May.
This spring, Chamberlain has posted a 3.38 ERA in eight Cactus League games, striking out seven and walking five in eight innings. Two of his outings were tracked by PITCHf/x, which had his fastball at 95.5 mph on average and his slider at 87.8 mph on average. Those marks are both an increase over his readings in 2015 (94.5 mph fastball and 85.9 mph slider), when he had a 4.88 ERA and split his time with the Tigers, Blue Jays and Royals organizations.
"For him to come in as a non-roster, but to do it the way he did, he's been a teammate from Day One," Francona said. "He came out here in January. He has really thrown the ball well. This is exciting, I think, not just for him but for us, together. Getting to know him has been fun, and it'll get better. He likes to compete, he wants to win, and I think he'll be a really valuable piece down there."
Prior to the Indians' Opening Day tilt against the Red Sox on April 4, the Tribe will honor a handful of signature moments in Progressive Field history. Included will be a celebration of the walk-off hit that Travis Hafner delivered to beat the Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Division Series in the 2007 playoffs.
That was, of course, the "Bug Game," in which Chamberlain was swarmed by midges on the mound as a rookie with the Yankees.
"Actually, Haf just texted me," Chamberlain said with a laugh. "I guess it all comes full circle. It'll be fun to play that part, too. I'll always be the Bug Guy. It could be worse. Now to be a part of it 10 years later, I started my career and now am starting another chapter of my career. I couldn't think of any better place."