Indians reliever Chris Perez has closed out the local media.
Cleveland’s colorful closer, who has not spoken on the record to reporters for several weeks, left Progressive Field on Monday night after blowing a save in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers before the clubhouse was open. With Perez long gone, his teammates were left to answer questions about the demoralizing loss, which dropped the Indians four games out of first place in the AL Central.
Manager Terry Francona downplayed Perez’s snub, which came after he failed to protect a 2-0 lead. The right-hander yielded a three-run homer to Alex Avila and failed to record an out.
”In a perfect world guys stand in front of their locker,” Francona said before Tuesday’s game. ”Sometimes it’s not a perfect world.”
Approached by The Associated Press, Perez said he intends to maintain his media blackout.
”I’m not talking the rest of the year,” he said. ”Quit asking.”
Francona didn’t defend Perez’s actions, but he doesn’t believe they’ll be a distraction to his ballclub.
”I think it’s his personal choice,” he said. ”I think we try to foster an environment where good, bad, in-between, guys are accountable. Some guys choose to not talk. Like I said, it’s not always a perfect world. ”
Francona intimated Perez’s behavior will be handled internally, and he’s not worried that it will divide a Cleveland team that has grown into a tight-knit group this season.
”I don’t think it’s worrisome,” Francona said. ”I think those things with the team have a way of working themselves out and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in public. This is where teams kind of come together and take care of team things.”
Perez has had a history of being a distraction. Last season, he made headlines for criticizing Cleveland fans for the team’s poor attendance, ripped Indians ownership for not spending enough money and questioned some moves by the front office. He then lambasted manager Manny Acta a few days after he was fired.
Earlier this season, he and his wife were arrested on misdemeanor drug charges. Perez has always been cordial with reporters, but has recently been more difficult to deal with. Following a recent win, he went out of his way to turn up the volume on the clubhouse sound system to make it harder for reporters to hear as they interviewed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
Perez was pitching in his third straight game on Monday night. He had converted 11 straight save opportunities since coming off the disabled list. Francona said Perez stopped in his office before leaving the ballpark.
”He actually came in after the game and said, `I felt great. I just blew it,”’ Francona said.
Perez, who has 17 saves, was not available Tuesday night as the Indians continued their series with Detroit. Francona was hoping for a long outing from starter Justin Masterson.
Although Francona was second-guessed for using Perez and having the right-hander face left-handed hitter Prince Fielder in the ninth, Cleveland’s manager said he would follow the same script.
”Not in the ninth,” Francona said when asked if we consider using two pitchers in the final inning. ”That’s why you have closers. You’re going to create chaos down there if you start doing that.”
Francona is also confident Perez will bounce back.
”I think I have a pretty good grasp of these guys,” Francona said. ”To be a closer you’ve got to have selective amnesia.”