Chris Perez strong since opening meltdown

CLEVELAND — When Chris Perez blew a save on Opening Day, Northeast Ohio fans were ready to rip off his Indians uniform and trade him for Luis Valbuena.

Since then, Perez has had six chances to save games and has succeeded six times, allowing no runs, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. Perez cleaned up on the Tribe’s trip to Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland, picking up five saves, including three on consecutive nights.

So was Perez in danger of being overworked?

“Things even out in the course of the season,” manager Manny Acta said Tuesday. “When your team is losing, the closer is fresh and well rested. If you’re winning, he’s going to have to pitch a lot.”

Perez is 4-for-4 in one-run saves, 1-for-1 in two-run saves, 0-for-1 in three-run saves and 1-for-1 in four-run saves (the tying run was on deck).
“But we manage him so he doesn’t pitch more than three days in a row, unless there’s an emergency. If you’re winning and fatigue becomes an issue, you deal with that,” Acta said.

Most relievers thrive on work. Pitching two or three days in a row can sharpen a closer’s command and usually has little effect on his velocity or the movement of his pitches. Of course, there are exceptions, and even the most durable closer has limits.

But that’s why baseball teams have managers and pitching coaches. All relievers are monitored for signs of a tired arm.

“We look at how many times they’re up, and we go by pitches thrown,” Acta said. “We check with them every day.”

Perez wasn’t the only Tribe reliever to benefit from the nine-game trip that ended Sunday. The relief corps posted an aggregate earned-run average of 0.92 on the trip, giving up just two runs in 19 2/3 innings.

Yet because of an unproductive season-opening homestand, the bullpen ranks 10th in the American League with a 4.58 ERA (down from 6.51).

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