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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | April 20, 2014

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Chris Perez and Rest of Staff on Track for Opening Day

By A.J. Atkinson

After showing postseason talent but failing to reach it due to injuries, Tribe fans looked toward the 2012 season. The recap of the Cleveland Indians’ first week of spring training, however, did not look good.

Newly resigned centerfielder Grady Sizemore injured his back and would miss Opening Day. The day before, Chris Perez, the Tribe’s closer and anchor to the bullpen, strained an oblique muscle and would be out for at least a month—another cornerstone who may be out for Opening Day.

Nearly two weeks before camp ends, Chris Perez said he’s on track to close the Tribe’s opener against the Toronto Blue Jays if needed Aug. 5.

“I’m scheduled to get into six or seven (spring training) games right now—hopefully that’s enough,” Chris Perez said. “If I bounce back and after my outings my arm feels good, hopefully I can break camp (as the Opening Day closer).”

Tribe manager Manny Acta said he was very impressed with Chris Perez’s simulated bullpen session yesterday and said he could see live action in the Tribe’s exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels Friday.

“He looked really good,” Acta said. “He was able to throw all his pitches. Slider was very good. I was very impressed. I’m excited to get him out there. I think we have plenty of time before Opening Day.”

Left-handed reliever Rafael Perez is also recovering from a sore left shoulder. Rafael Perez threw an inning in the Tribe’s exhibition game against San Francisco yesterday, striking out two and retiring the third for a one, two, three inning.

With many question marks concerning the strength of the Tribe’s bullpen, Chris Perez said he and the rest of his staff look to do better than last season. In 2011, the Tribe’s bullpen posted a combined 3.71 earned run average, which ranked fifth lowest in the American League.

Chris Perez said he is only focusing on recovering from his injury at the moment, but once he returns his emphasis will be on controlling his pitches better as well as coming out on top when he enters a tie ballgame.

“I think I can be better myself,” Chris Perez said. “There were some times last season I didn’t pitch as well as I liked. For some reason, it seemed like every time I came into a tie game, the other team took the lead. I think together we’re going to be better this year. It’s another year we’re all together again.”

Acta talked about how important it is to return all five relievers: Vinny Pestano, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Chris Perez and Joe Smith.

“We’re happy with our bullpen,” Acta said. “We’re getting our five main guys back. Usually that’s how you lose consistency is when you don’t get your five back. Guys pitching in the middle get too expensive and get moved, but we have all five guys coming back.”

For Opening Day, the Tribe’s bullpen is expected to be back at full strength. Two more weeks of spring training continue before Justin Masterson throws the first pitch to begin the Indians’ 2012 season April 5 at 3:05 p.m. against the Blue Jays.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer

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