Reliever Betancourt signs two-year deal with Tribe
CLEVELAND -- Rafael Betancourt, one of the AL's top relievers last season, signed a two-year contract Wednesday with the Cleveland Indians, who avoided going to salary arbitration with the right-hander.
Financial terms were not immediately available on the deal, which includes a third-year club option.
The 32-year-old Betancourt was arguably the majors' best setup man in 2007.
He went 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 68 appearances, mostly in the eighth inning before handing the ball to closer Joe Borowski, who led the AL with 45 saves in his first season for Cleveland.
Betancourt's ERA was the league's second-lowest among relievers and opponents batted just .183 against him.
Betancourt's tedious between-pitch routine, in which he incessantly tugs on his cap and paws at the mound with his cleat, frustrated hitters. He finished the season with 80 strikeouts and just nine walks in 79 1/3 innings and recorded three saves.
Betancourt was still two years away from free agency, and last week his agent exchanged salary figures with the Indians in anticipation of an arbitration hearing. Betancourt filed for $2.5 million, while the Indians offered $1.75 million. He made $840,000 last year.
The Indians also exchanged figures with third baseman Casey Blake, who is seeking $6.9 million. Cleveland offered $5.4 million to the versatile 34-year-old, who made $3.75 million last year.
The club hasn't gone to arbitration with a player since 1993.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press