Like every other team in Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians employ numerous players throughout their organization, from the big-league club in Cleveland to their rookie league team in Arizona and beyond. And like every other Major League franchise, the Indians add and subtract from this player pool on a regular basis. This irregular series will serve to post notice when a former Indians player has done something noteworthy with a quick look back at the player’s time in Cleveland.
Player: LHP Clay Rapada
Current Team: Norfolk Tides* (Triple-A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles)
Year(s) in Indians Organization: Signed by the Indians on June 13, 2013; appeared in 4 games with the Indians before being designated for assignment and ultimately released in October 2013
Why He Still Isn’t in Cleveland: If you haven’t been following the Indians closely, you might not have even known Rapada pitched for the Indians, and you’re forgiven if that’s the case. Rapada pitched a total of 2 innings with the Tribe over 4 relief appearances last season, so you could have blinked and missed his tenure in Cleveland. After his brief time with the Indians, the Tribe designated him for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for starter Tyler Cloyd, who recently threw a no-hitter for Triple-A Columbus en route to being named the International League’s pitcher of the week.
But hey, Rapada never allowed a run while with the Indians. So that’s cool.
Rapada has been a serviceable major league reliever throughout most of his career, but he was never viewed as a long-term piece for the Indians. The Tribe have plenty of bullpen depth (both in the majors and minors), and keeping him never seemed like a plausible scenario.
The left-handed Rapada has been downright unhittable against same-sided hitters, as he’s held lefties to a .164/.255/.231 line in his major league career. However, he hasn’t had the same success against right-handed hitters, and has allowed a .345/.464/.611 against them in his career. Rapada is a terrific left-handed specialist, but it just didn’t make sense for the Indians to keep him when they have other options in their organization with less dramatic platoon splits.
What He Did: After being released by the Indians last October, he was signed by the Angels in December. But he never threw a pitch for the Halos, and was released at the end of spring training.
On April 1, he was signed by the Mariners and pitched 19 2/3 innings (over 14 appearances) for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma before the Mariners released him as well on June 15.
He wasn’t on the market for long, and he was signed by the Orioles on June 18 and sent to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk. Ironically, I was on vacation in Virginia recently and went to a Tides game, in which Rapada pitched 2/3 of an inning and allowed a hit en route to his 2nd hold of the season on July 24. The Tides defeated the Toledo Mud Hens (and Ezequiel Carrera), 11-4.
Nonetheless, the Orioles weren’t overly impressed with Rapada, and it seems as though any chance he had of getting a promotion to the Orioles was gone after Baltimore acquired southpaw reliever Andrew Miller from the Red Sox on July 31. Baltimore released Rapada on Tuesday.
What Does the Future Hold: There’s a place in baseball for left-handed specialists, and Rapada doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors despite fairly underwhelming numbers this season. Still, he’s bounced around the league for the last few seasons, and it would be surprising to see him sign a major league contract.
He’s likely ticketed for some team’s Triple-A affiliate, but there’s certainly a chance he could appear in the majors at some point this season. This is just my speculation, but the Nationals have been looking for a left-handed reliever, and Rapada could be a fit for Washington, where he would at least serve as quality depth. [UPDATE: The Nationals have reportedly acquired southpaw Matt Thornton from the Yankees, which would seemingly decrease the team's need to add another lefty like Rapada.]
The Braves have also been desperately looking for a left-handed reliever, and Atlanta pitching has allowed a .265/.331/.383 line to opposing left-handed hitters this season. Rapada might only face a batter or two during a relief appearance, but his impressive ability to get left-handers out would be a valuable commodity for a team like the Braves (again, I’m just speculating).
Nonetheless, the most likely outcome for Rapada would be to sign a minor league contract with a team looking for bullpen depth. If he pitches well, there’s definitely a chance that we could see the 33-year old Rapada appear at some point in the majors this season.
Notice a player you remember being in the Indians organization? We’re ever-vigilant, but sometimes we miss guys, too! Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know which former Indians farmhand or player is making noise elsewhere.