By: T.J. Zuppe
The Cleveland Indians were dealt their second big blow in a matter of just a few days Sunday, revealing that closer Chris Perez suffered a strained left oblique during his first bullpen session of the spring.
Perez – who saved 36 games for the Tribe in 2011 – initially looks like he will miss four to six weeks of action. The training staff is optimistic the 26-year old righty will be able get some work in before the end of camp, allowing him to be ready for opening day.
Perez told the media in Goodyear, he believes he tried to be too aggressive too quickly, resulting in the setback.
The news of Perez’s injury only added to the bad news brigade. On Friday, the club explained that outfielder Grady Sizemore had experienced a lower back strain, while rehabbing his knee a few weeks earlier.
It appears likely that the 29-year old outfielder will start the season on the disabled list.
Injuries to Sizemore and Perez highlight one of the biggest goals of the front office this off-season – having depth.
Manager Manny Acta explained that if Perez is unable to go on opening day, the club has no problem turning to right-handed pitcher Vinnie Pestano. Acta called him the team’s top choice.
Perez’s strain is an interesting coincidence. Pestano discussed the prospect the closing in the future during Munch in the Morning on ESPN 850 WKNR, Friday morning.
“I’ve been a closer almost my entire career,” Pestano said. “Last year was the first time that I hadn’t closed in like eight years.”
“I treat the eighth inning like my ninth. If it’s a three-run game in the eighth or a three-run game in the ninth, I’m going in with the same mindset. I don’t think there is really a different mindset for me.
“I’m pretty comfortable in that late inning role.”
While injuries can be crippling to any organization, if the Indians were prepared to handle one, it would be in its bullpen. Even with one of the most dynamic relieving corps in the game, general manager Chris Antonetti added to the pile this offseason, inviting Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray, and Jeremy Accardo as non-roster campers.
Those names will give Acta some options and should limit the impact of losing their key member at the back of the pen, for any extended period of time.
TJ Zuppe covers the Cleveland Indians for ESPN 850 WKNR. Catch TJ on Munch in the Morning weekdays from 4:30a.m.-6:00a.m. on ESPN 850 WKNR and 8:00a.m.-9:00a.m. on ESPN 1540 KNR2.
Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe
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