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Perez Rejoins Tribe on Minor League Contract

Perez Rejoins Tribe on Minor League Contract

| On 18, Feb 2021

The Cleveland Indians addressed their notable deficiency in left-handed pitching on Thursday, coming to terms on a minor league contract with ageless veteran Oliver Perez.

According to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, Perez could make $1.25 million if he makes the Indians roster and that the contract includes another $1.5 million in performance incentives. His deal also includes an invitation to spring training, where he will be one of just a small handful of southpaws competing for a role in the club’s bullpen.

The 39-year-old Perez has spent parts of the last three seasons working as a key piece of the Tribe’s relief staff. A longtime starter converted into a LOOGY specialist, Perez had to adapt in 2020 to Major League Baseball’s rule change dictating how many batters a pitcher must face before being removed from the mound. Perez went 1-1 in 21 appearances during the campaign, posting a 2.00 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP with 14 strikeouts and six walks in 18 innings of work while also earning a save and three holds.

Perez joined the Indians as a free agent midway through the 2018 season after opening the year in the minors with the New York Yankees. He quickly became a favorite weapon of choice in the Cleveland bullpen, making 51 appearances over 32 1/3 innings while providing a 1.39 ERA and 0.74 WHIP, both easily the best marks of his career. He followed that effort with 67 more appearances in 2019, going 2-4 with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.

Despite his relief history as a LOOGY, Perez faced ten more right-handed batters in 2020 than he did left-handers due to the change in his usage. Five of his six walks on the year came against right-handed hitters as they posted a .229/.341/.286 slash with ten strikeouts in 41 plate appearances against him. In 31 appearances against left-handed hitters, Perez struck out four and walked one, surrendering a .185/.258/.222 line. Over the course of his career, opposing right-handed hitters have posted a .248/.352/.426 slash and left-handers own a .227/.310/.358 mark, but those numbers include his time as a starter, which was not always as successful as his efforts have been since moving to full time relief work.

During his previous 15 seasons in the Majors before coming to Cleveland, Perez suited up for the San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, and Washington Nationals. His 139 games pitched with the Indians are the most he has made for any one club over the course of his 18-year career.

The Indians have a noticeable void in left-handed pitching options reporting to Goodyear this spring. Kyle Nelson, a 24-year-old who made his big league debut last year, has just two-thirds of an inning under his belt in MLB action and 122 more over three minor league seasons (including just 38 between Double-A and Triple-A). Anthony Gose, a 30-year-old former big league outfielder who spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons in the Cleveland organization, is in camp for a second straight season on a non-roster invitation. Logan Allen, Sam Hentges, and Scott Moss are also left-handers on the 40-man roster, but they look to be starting pitching depth at this juncture of their careers.

Other non-roster relievers in camp vying for jobs in Cleveland or elsewhere include right-handers Kyle Dowdy, Heath Hembree, DJ Johnson, Blake Parker, Nick Sandlin, and longtime Tribe setup man and franchise record holder for holds Bryan Shaw.

Photo: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

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