Chris Perez navigating the closers' tar pit

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Through one-plus month of the baseball season, closing has proven hazardous to the mental and physical health. If closers are not getting rocked, they are tearing ACLs while shagging fly balls in batting practice.

The Indians have been fortunate. Not only has their closer survived, he has thrived. Chris Perez has 10 saves in 11 opportunities and a 3.09 ERA after Friday's 6-3 victory over Texas. Since a rocky appearance on Opening Day, when he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning in a blown save against Toronto, he has allowed one run in 11 innings of 12 appearances.

While Perez has lived up to his All-Star status of last season, a number of his peers has had all sorts of issues. Here is a sampling of what already has befallen closers:

Mariano Rivera, Yankees: The greatest ever suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee during batting practice Thursday at Kansas City. He was tracking a fly ball hit by former Indian Jayson Nix. Rivera, 42, is a 12-time All-Star.

Brian Wilson, Giants: The three-time All-Star underwent Tommy John surgery in April, the second such surgery of his career.

Joakim Soria, Royals: The two-time All-Star injured his right elbow in spring training and underwent reconstructive surgery.

Sergio Santos, Blue Jays: He was placed on the disabled list April 21 because of right-shoulder inflammation. He is 2-for-4 in save chances and owns a 9.00 ERA in six games.

Carlos Marmol, Cubs: He entered Friday at 2-for-4 and owned a 6.23 ERA in 12 games. He was replaced as closer this week.

Heath Bell, Marlins: He entered Friday at 3-for-6 and owned an 11.74 ERA in 10 games. He went 43-for-48 last year with San Diego.

J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks: He entered Friday at 5-for-7 and owned a 6.48 ERA in nine games. He went 45-for-49 last year.

Jose Valverde, Tigers: He entered Friday at 4-for-5 and owned a 5.59 ERA in 10 games. In the 2011 regular season, he was 49-for-49 and had a 2.24 ERA.

Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox: He entered Friday at 5-for-7. In the two blown saves, he gave up eight runs.

Perez did not need to be informed as to how difficult it has been for closers this season.

"We're sort of a fraternity,'' he said. "We feel for each other, because we understand how short people's memories can be. You're always one or two bad streaks away from them calling for your job. And that's how it should be. When you have the lead after eight innings, you've got to win those games.''

Nothing to see here: Perez does not care what a TV replay might suggest or what White Sox outfielder Alex Rios says. Perez reiterated Friday afternoon that he directed no ill will toward Rios at the end of Thursday night's game in Chicago.

As Rios grounded to Asdrubal Cabrera for what was to become the final out of a 7-5 Tribe victory, Perez is seen turning toward the first-base line and yelling. As Rios runs to first, Perez's head follows him.

Rios reached the bag and immediately turned. He flapped his arms and barked at Perez.

"When I was running to first, he was yelling the whole way,'' Rios told reporters. "I don't know what was wrong with him. He just started yelling at me. For no reason. I couldn't tell what he was saying; he was just staring and saying something.''

Perez said he simply was pleased that the Indians prevailed.

"I wasn't talking anything to Rios,'' he said. "I couldn't care less if it was he or (A.J.) Pierzynski or (Paul) Konerko -- whoever made the last out, I was going to do the same thing. It was for the team. We had just won a series on the road.''

Perez maintained that his look toward the first-base line only was to follow the ball into first baseman Casey Kotchman's glove.

"When I knew Cabby had it, I yelled, '(Expletive), yeah! Game's over!''' Perez said. "I watched the ball go to first, then Rios spun on me. I said, 'What? The game's over. What's your problem?'''

Rios said: "If you are celebrating, that's not the right way to do it.''

Rios said he has no history with Perez -- but he does have a walkoff grand slam against him. On Sept. 10, 2011, Rios's blast with one out in the 10th inning gave the White Sox a 7-3 victory.

"Rios was happy after he hit that homer, as he should be,'' Perez said. "And I had a right to be happy after we won a series in their place.''
Give him his due: Count Perez and his teammates among those pleased that Rivera has vowed to return next season. Rivera is MLB’s all-time saves leader with 608.

“You want to see him keep going, for all that he’s meant to the game,” Perez said. “As an athlete, you always want to go out on your own terms and not because you’re not good enough or because of injury.”

Tribe left fielder Johnny Damon said: “He’s one of the greatest pitchers of all time — not just relievers.”

Damon, who played with Rivera in New York, said the closer always has enjoyed running down balls in batting practice.

“For the past 17 years, he probably was the best center fielder the Yankees had,” Damon said. “That’s how good of a shagger he was.”

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