Jon Garland, Inning-Eater, Signs With Indians

The veteran righthander has eaten innings for five teams. Following shoulder surgery last summer, Garland hopes to do it again in Cleveland.

Jon Garland was once as dependable as the knowledge that the team that originally drafted him No. 1 in 1997 -- the Cubs -- wouldn't make the World Series.

Even while pitching for five different teams -- none of them the Cubs, who dealt him away in an ill-advised deal for Matt Karchner fourteen years ago -- he made either 32 or 33 starts for nine consecutive seasons, from 2002-2010. His total of 292 starts over that span was fifth-most, behind Barry Zito, Derek Lowe, Mark Buehrle and Livan Hernandez.

That's an instructive group, actually. Not really a superstar among them, but all inning-eaters, something Garland also did well. He threw at least 191 innings in all nine of those years and consistently posted ERAs in the low fours and WHIPS of around 1.3 ... the perfect fourth or fifth starter.

It all worked fine until 2011, when Garland, signed by the Dodgers, made nine starts and then had shoulder surgery, missing the rest of the season. At age 32, presumably fully recovered from the surgery, you'd have thought he'd be attractive to any one of a dozen or so teams looking for a starting pitcher.

Instead, it took until Monday to get him signed, and only to a minor-league contract:

Garland, who had shoulder surgery in July, will take a physical in the next week at the Indians' complex in Goodyear, Ariz. If he passes, he'll sign with the Indians and have a chance to make the club's rotation in training camp.

The Indians made a run at the AL Central title in 2011 before fading in late summer. It won't be easy to make a similar run this year; with the Tigers signing Prince Fielder, Detroit goes into spring training as prohibitive favorites to repeat.

But Cleveland has starting rotation issues with the uncertainty regarding the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, now Roberto Hernandez Heredia. Garland, if healthy, could be good for another 32 or 33 starts and close to 200 innings, which would certainly help take pressure off Cleveland's bullpen. This is a good, low-risk, high-reward signing.

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