Orioles sign De La Cruz

Looking to add more left-handed depth to their bullpen, the Orioles have signed reliever Kelvin De La Cruz to a one-year contract.

De La Cruz, 25, was a combined 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA and seven saves in 67 1/3 innings and 50 relief appearances this year for Double-A Chattanooga (three games) and Triple-A Albuquerque (47) in the Dodgers system. He finished third in the Pacific Coast League and set a career high with 11.26 strikeouts over nine innings.

De La Cruz held left-handed hitters to a .217/.298/.261 line and 37 strikeouts in 106 plate appearances.

“He’s about ready to pitch in the big leagues,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “He had a really good season with Albuquerque and he dominated left-handed hitters. He’s got a couple of swing-and-miss pitches, a fastball and slider.”

In eight minor league seasons in the Indians (2006-11), Tigers (‘12) and Dodgers (‘13) systems, De La Cruz has gone 40-37 with a 4.18 ERA over 638 innings and has averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 185 career minor league games, including 111 starts.

“He was a big prospect with the Indians a few years ago and has bounced around a little with a few teams, but our scouts like him and we think that he can succeed in the big leagues,” Duquette said. “He’ll get a trial with us in spring training. He’s got the size and he’s got the pitches. He got some good results this year in Triple-A. Albuquerque is a tough place to pitch.

“A couple other teams were trying to sign him and had offered him a major league spot. We thought we had good support from our scouts and video to give him a chance to make the team in spring training. He should give us good depth in the bullpen.

“He’s 6-foot-5, and you take a look at his 78 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings at Albuquerque, that’s a good start. He controls left-handed hitters and he’s also a good competitor. We’ll take a look at him this spring and see how it goes. We like his arm and think there are a couple things we can do to help him.”

The Orioles carried left-handers Brian Matusz, Troy Patton and Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland in their bullpen this year. De La Cruz could find a spot if McFarland joins Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation next season or the Orioles use Matusz or Patton as trade chips.

“You take a look at his performance in Triple-A, he dominated left-handed hitters there,” Duquette said. “He kept the ball in the ballpark and he had a good strikeout rate.”

The Orioles now have 32 players on their 40-man roster.

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