CLEVELAND – The Indians parted with integral pieces like Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis due to the signings of Edwin Encarnacion and Austin Jackson this past winter.
Although he lacked the popularity of other players on the roster, Jeff Manship qualified as one of these key off-season departures.
The 32-year-old was most known for a breakout 2015 campaign in which he registered a 0.92 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and .155 opposing batting average in 39.1 innings of work. Manship posted respectable numbers in 2016 as well with career-highs in appearances (53), innings (43.1), wins (2) and strikeouts (36).
When Manship did not receive a contract and elected free agency last December, there was question as to who would fill the void and claim the seventh and final spot in the Tribe bullpen.
Nick Goody and Shawn Armstrong stood out as the leading candidates for the job.
“Armstrong threw well. So did Crockett. Everybody pitched pretty well,” said Goody about the tight roster competition in the pen this spring. “The communication has been really good with Tito and Chris (Antonetti) and Mickey (Callaway) and everybody. That's all you can ask for as a player. That was nice. Armstrong came up here and dealt. When you have options, that's what happens. We both knew that. I saw him walking out and I was like - he killed it last [Thursday]. It is what it is.”
While Manship opted to sign a contract with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball League in January, Goody, a former New York Yankees prospect, found a new home in Cleveland via trade for a player to be named later on December 20, 2016.
“It's a new organization. Obviously you want to make a good impression,” Goody said. “I played with Andrew Miller in New York. He's unbelievable, a mentor. He's definitely one of the guys I look up to. I played against Cody Allen in high school, so I have some background. McAllister was in New York. Dan (Otero) was my locker mate all of spring training. You build friendships and when they threw well, I sent them a text or a Snapchat and let them know.”
The trade for Goody seemed to be lost in the mix of Encarnacion rumors that swirled to news feeds across the country for the majority of December and the early stages of January. While Encarnacion certainly stood out as a much hotter commodity on the free agent market, the Goody acquisition flew under the radar as a developing reliever with a dominant arsenal of pitches – four-seam fastball (93 mph), slider (83 mph) and changeup (86 mph).
“Throwing strikes is the big one. Limiting runners and runs and hits and all of that,” said Goody. “When I got to Columbus, just working with (Steve) Karsay and just being able to repeat my mechanics and my delivery. That's the biggest thing. And going right after guys and not giving in. Repeating my mechanics would probably be the biggest thing.”
After notching an average of 35.5 K/9 in 23.1 innings (1.93 ERA) with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and 10.55 K/9 in 29 innings (4.66 ERA) with the Yankees in 2016, Goody found himself split between Triple-A and major league roles in the New York organization. His untapped potential appeared to be better suited for a franchise like Cleveland.
“[Andrew Miller’s] unbelievable. He's one of the best baseball minds I've ever been around,” Goody said of his old and new teammate. “That's something that you look at and he takes guys out to dinner and talks. He's a team leader and I'm happy he's on our team, that's for sure. He's an unbelievable player.”
Goody was near-perfect in the 2017 Cactus League as he fired 10 frames of one-run ball. Shortly thereafter, his early-season prosperity carried over to the Columbus Clippers with another three scoreless outings – 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, 10 K (20.77 K/9, 10 of the 17 batters he faced struck out).
“Columbus is an extension of the big leagues. We have a good team in Columbus and it's nice that [the organization] can pick guys from there to bring up at any point and know that they're going to contribute,” said Goody. “You build friendships in spring training and when they go out and do well, you send them a text. I don't expect them to look at the Columbus box score, but they know that we're watching.”
Sure enough, Goody got the call on Thursday night to take the place of Armstrong and his 8.31 earned run average (5.1 IP, 5 ER).
“My wife and my dog were there (on Thursday), so the dog kept me up a little bit, but I've been up and down. Getting sleep is huge now,” Goody said. “The first couple times, it was like wide awake. Now, it's awesome, but you're here to do a job and perform. That's what they expect. That's what I expect.”
The former Louisiana State standout hurled two shutout innings in his Indians debut on Friday against the Detroit Tigers. According to Brooks Baseball, Goody creates an “extremely high number” of swing-and-misses with his slider and has a rising fastball that could make him an effective fly ball pitcher.
Although Goody does have minor league options and valuable roster flexibility, he could very well stick at the major league level and become the club's next Jeff Manship amid one of the game’s premier bullpen units.
“When we acquired him, we were trying to kind of identify what he can be,” said manager Terry Francona. “We kept coming back to kind of a Manship role - a guy that can face certain right-handed hitters and be pretty tough on them.”