Scoreless inning of work pleases closer Chris Perez and manager Terry Francona

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Chris Perez was in a good mood Tuesday afternoon. He was holding a Gatorade paper cup in his teeth, while catching baseballs dropped by fans from the right-field wall at Goodyear Ballpark.

Perez would catch the balls, autograph them and flip them back to the fans. It went on for about 10 minutes before he opened a door in the right field wall and disappeared. The Indians closer, appearing in his first Cactus League game since Feb. 26, pitched a scoreless seventh inning in a 7-6 loss to Oakland.

It was the latest indication that he'll be ready for the season opener Tuesday in Toronto.

"I felt normal," said Perez. "Now I'm just trying to get up to speed with my location. Velocity wise I felt normal.

"The big test will be going back-to-back during the season. Honestly, I feel better than I did at this time last year."

Perez made only three Cactus League appearances last spring because of a strained left oblique muscle.

"He looked good, really good," said manager Terry Francona. "He said he felt rusty, but it didn't look like it. That was the highlight of the day."

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