Perez and Cabrera Selected as Tribe All-Stars for Second Straight Season
By Mike Brandyberry
Once is noteworthy, but twice is a trend.
For the second straight season, Chris Perez and Asdrubal Cabrera were selected to represent the Cleveland Indians in the Major League All-Star Game. It is the first time the same two Indians were selected in consecutive years since Sam McDowell and Ray Fosse were chosen for the Midsummer Classic in 1970-71.
“I feel great for those two guys being recognized for the second year in a row,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It’s a very good sign they are establishing themselves as All-Stars. You can make the All-Star game once in your life and never go back. Going back to back, it’s a good sign it won’t be the last time either.”
For Perez, this year’s selection was notable because he found out on his birthday.
“It’s a good day,” Perez said. “On my birthday last year I was at my grandmother’s funeral, so it was a better birthday this year, finding out the news.”
Currently, Perez is tied for the Major League lead in saves and has converted 23 of his 23 chances. His current mark of 23 consecutive saves is the second longest streak in team history behind Jose Mesa’s 38 consecutive saves in the 1995 season. Perez is 0-1, with a 2.76 ERA in 31 appearances this season. Perez threw a scoreless inning in last year’s All-Star game in Arizona.
“I have to give most credit to my bullpen mates, Vinnie (Pestano) for sure,” Perez said. “I only get as many opportunities as he converts. He has been since last year too. I give him a lot of credit, obviously. And my team, I get as many opportunities as they give me.”
Converting 23 consecutive saves hasn’t been as easy as it looks, however. Perez suffered an oblique injury early in Spring Training and missed most of camp with the injury. He was only able to pitch three exhibition games before Opening Day. Perez’s only blown save of the year was on Opening Day, creating speculation that he was not ready for the start of the season.
“Going through spring training, going through getting that injury and having to battle for that and having Opening Day be so terrible,” Perez said. “I told you guys I was healthy from day one, and I was, and it has just been good to validate that. I just go out there and try to make good pitches and I’ve been more successful than not.”
Justin Masterson had just pitched eight innings, staking the Tribe and Perez to a 4-1 lead in front of a sold out Progressive Field. Perez was unable to retire the Toronto Blue Jays before giving up three runs and tying the game. The Blue Jays would go on to win the game in extra innings.
“Masterson threw eight brilliant innings and especially the way last year went when he didn’t get run support,” Perez said. “It’s the last thing I wanted was to blow it. Luckily I was able to bounce back.”
Perez has also been subject to some backlash from fans and media for his comments about Indians’ fans lack of attendance and support. In May he questioned why he was booed and his frustration with being in first place despite being last in attendance. Last week Perez questioned why fans support the Cleveland Browns endlessly, but do not have the same affection for the Indians. He doesn’t consider the comments to be a distraction, but a motivator.
“I think it goes hand in hand,” Perez said. “Obviously I wouldn’t say those things if I wasn’t performing so well, but at the same time I don’t know if I’d be performing as well if I didn’t say those things.”
Meanwhile, Cabrera has picked up his 2012 season right where 2011 left off. Last season he had a breakout year, hitting 25 home runs and driving in 92. This year he is right on pace with those breakout numbers, hitting .298, with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. He has been red hot since June 16, hitting .323 (21-65).
“Last year was an unbelievable year for me, the way the season started,” Cabrera said. “I feel really good this year, but I’m really happy where my numbers are at this year.”
His power surge last season and this season continues to be a product of the advice of Orlando Cabrera. In Spring Training in 2011, Orlando suggested to Asdrubal that he try to hit the ball out of the park more often and to look for a pitch each game he feels he could drive. Asdrubal feels his power production is still a result of that advice.
“I got that thing in my mind and now,” Cabrera said. “I look for a good pitch to hit a home run. It depends on the situation and how the game is going.”
Cabrera has been one of the most consistent Indians all season and has played much of the season without a back up. The Tribe has not had a true back up shortstop on the roster since Juan Diaz was optioned to Double-A Akron in early June. Cabrera has been forced to play nearly every inning since.
“Day in and day out, he’s been as solid as you can ask a guy to be,” Acta said. “Last year was huge for him because he put himself out there for the whole world and baseball fans to know how good he is. By doing what he’s doing this year, he’s letting people know he’s for real. He’s an All-Star.”
Both Cabrera and Perez were selected by fellow players in last weekend’s MLB player voting. The starters are selected via fan vote and the reserves are a combination of player’s vote and manager selections.
“I’m really happy those guys and everybody voted for me,” Cabrera said. “I just say thank you to those guys.”
The tandem may be missing an Indian All-Star in Kansas City next week, however. Jason Kipnis was not selected for the team, despite hitting. 275, with 11 home runs, 46 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Robinson Cano was voted the American League starting second baseman and Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers was selected by manager Ron Washington.
“It was sad that Jason is not going to have an opportunity to make it,” Acta said. “We were sure to tell him that in our heart he is an All-Star, that he has played as an All-Star. His numbers are there. Historically, in this game, so many guys have had the numbers and there are only so many spots. Having so many great second basemen in the American League really hurt him.”
While Kipnis will have to wait for another chance at his first All-Star Game, Cabrera and Perez will be in Indians’ uniforms representing the Tribe in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 10 on Fox at 7:30 pm ET.
Photo: Getty Images