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Indians bullpen struggles becoming concern

Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano have struggled recently

The bad news for the Indians: Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano have taken the Cleveland bullpen close to “concern” status.

The good news: At least the Indians have depth, so if manager Terry Francona needs to make a switch there are options.

This does not say Francona does need to make a move, or that he will.

But Sunday in Boston, the Indians lost a winnable game when the bullpen failed on the Red Sox' last at-bat.

Pestano struggled on Saturday. Sunday, Perez had his third rough outing in a row, and it ended with Mark Reynolds waving Francona on the field to check on the Indians closer with the bases loaded and two out. When Francona did, Perez threw a warmup to the backstop and Francona took him out.

Joe Smith came in cold and Jacoby Ellsbury drove his first pitch to deep left-center. Perez and the Indians had given up four runs in the ninth to lose a game, 6-5, they should have won.

Afterward, Francona told the media that Perez felt something in his shoulder and would be checked. It’s the third time season Perez has felt something in his shoulder. He had problems in spring training, then on May 12 in Detroit he called from the bullpen to say he could not close.

He had insisted since that he is fine.

But Sunday in audio e-mailed postgame by the team, Perez admitted he has not been right.

“I’ve been dealing with a little thing the last couple weeks,” he said. “We had stayed on top of it and it had been getting better. Today, just took a couple steps back.”

Could he miss time?

“We don’t know yet,” he said. “We’ll address that (Monday).”

In response to a question, Perez also said that Pestano is not 100 percent and it stunk they were both struggling, but better now than September.

“Hopefully it’s nothing serious for both of us,” Perez said. “Get some treatment, get some medicine, hopefully come out there the next couple weeks.”

Francona shrugged when Pestano’s situation was brought up.

“That won’t bother us tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Francona stuck with Perez in the ninth even though he walked three and gave up three hits.  Perez thought he struck out Jose Iglesias on a 3-2 count with two out and two on, but didn’t get the call.

“I thought I made a good pitch and he walked,” Perez said.

The results ruined a good start for Corey Kluber, who gave up one run and struck out 10 in 6 2/3.

In his last three outings, Perez has pitched 2 2/3 innings and given seven runs.

In his last three outings after coming off the disabled list, Pestano has pitched three innings and given up five runs.

Combined, the pair have gone 5 2/3 innings and given up 12 runs, an ERA of 19.06.

Two-thirds of the bullpen mafia clearly are taking hits.

Francona prides himself on staying consistent, win or lose. So he’ll not panic. Sunday he simply said: “What happened today won’t carry over into tomorrow.”

If he has to make a move with the back end of the bullpen, at least he has options. The three lowest ERAs on the team belong to Smith (1.06), Brian Shaw (1.85) and Cody Allen (2.31).  Brett Myers was signed to start and is on the disabled list, but with Kluber throwing two good starts in a row,  Myers could return to the bullpen, where he pitched last season.

Nothing is certain, but Francona was hired to manage situations like these, and he told the media in Boston before the game there he never feels “handcuffed,” then mentioned Allen, Shaw, Matt Albers and Rich Hill as options.

“We have a ton of confidence in all of them,” he said.