The Strange Case of Hector Ambriz


The Indians announced that RHP Hector Ambriz would undergo Tommy John surgery this offseason. You remember Ambriz, don’t you? The Tribe selected Ambriz with the fifth pick in the Rule 5 draft from the Diamondbacks, and he survived the season at the big league level (sort of). Ambriz hasn’t pitched since September 8th, when the Tribe shut him down for the season, but since he spent the majority of the year on the big league roster or disabled list he does not have to be offered back to Arizona. He now has three minor league options and a bum arm.

There are obvious questions and red flags that are raised at this, but let’s look at what Ambriz did at the big league level. Relegated mostly to mop-up and emergency work after about mid-May, Ambriz posted a 5.59 ERA in 34 games (48.1 IP) a .338 BAA and a 1.76 WHIP. Not good numbers by any stretch of imagination, but Ambriz was pitching in over his head. He made a lot of mistakes, as evidenced by the 10 home runs he gave up. He’s 26 years old, but clearly could have used more time in Triple A. Unfortunately, the Indians couldn’t send him to the minors without first offering him back to the D-Backs. He had never been a reliever in the professional game before.

So he’s now the Indians’ property, full and good, and the obvious question is there: Was it worth it?

If the Indians were going to take a risk on a Rule 5 player, this was the season to do it. The team knew it was going nowhere, and could afford to stash a player, especially a pitcher, on the roster because, well, they wouldn’t be winning many games anyways.

So while the Indians didn’t lose much, per se, in keeping Ambriz, you have to wonder if the Indians have done irreparable damage to Ambriz in keeping him on the roster. He started the season on the DL with elbow soreness (y’know, the same kind that ended his season), and Ambriz says he told the team he “never felt right.”

Um, wait, what?

He told us that he never really felt great the whole year.
-Indians Manager Manny Acta

Look, I may not have all the facts here. This may be minor, and while Ambriz will most likely miss all of 2011, he still will have three options when he returns, meaning the Indians could have another serviceable arm to add to their stable, and all it cost them was 48.1 sucky innings during a lost season. This might be no big deal.

But another way to look at it is that  the Indians knew he didn’t feel right, and kept using him (admittedly sparingly), just to keep him on the roster. It looks to me that the Indians were so hell-bent on keeping Ambriz that they may have made him damaged goods. If that’s the case, the Indians have ruined this kid’s career, all for nothing. It’s sounding more like the Indians knew about this, and determined it wasn’t serious. And if this is true, well then the Indians need to seriously evaluate their medical staff.

On a team with a lot of apparently fragile players, the Indians simply can’t afford to run guys into the ground. Hector Ambriz’s case raises red flags in my mind about how the Indians are handling their players.

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