Struggling Indians' bullpen will have to fix things without Chris Perez.
By KEVIN GOHEENFS Ohio
CINCINNATI – Vinnie Pestano will be the first choice to get the ball in the ninth inning if the
Indians are in need of someone to close out today’s game against the Reds or any game in the near future. The bullpen may have had its troubles in the last week but manager Terry Francona has his plan in order now that Chris Perez has been placed on 15-day disabled list.
Perez was on his way back to Cleveland to be examined today for a sore right shoulder that is similar to the injury that kept him out for a month during spring training.
“We talked to Vinnie this morning and he’s comfortable slotting into that inning,” said Francona. “It is so much easier for us if you have a destination or end point to get to. We have plenty of depth but I still think that having guys know really helps give some semblance of order down there.”
Perez had allowed runs in three straight appearances, and in four of his last five outings before coming out of Sunday’s 6-5 loss at Boston with two outs and the bases loaded. Perez had allowed just one run in his first 12 appearances of the season, covering 12 innings.
Pestano is still looking for his form after coming off his own stint on the disabled list due to right elbow tendinitis. Pestano took the loss in Saturday’s 7-4 defeat against the Red Sox after giving up four runs on four hits with two walks.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there,” said Pestano. “The last one on my books was a pretty bad one so I’m anxious to get out there and change that and get back to being the pitcher I have been in the past.”
Pestano said he’s not feeling any pain in the elbow. He’s been dealing with the tendinitis for the last two seasons, he said, and he and the medical staff have always been able to manage it until this last episode. He’s hoping a change in mechanics will allow him to regain some of the velocity he’s lost.
“Whether I’m throwing 87 or 88 I’m confident I can go out there and get outs with what I have. A well-located fastball at 87 or 92 is still a good pitch,” said Pestano. “If I’m out there executing pitches then the velo will eventually come back.”
The Indians blew three of four save opportunities against Boston and have converted just one in their last seven chances. The bullpen has converted just nine of 18 chances this season, tied with the Cubs and Astros for the worst percentage in the Major Leagues.
Joe Smith, who relieved Perez Sunday and gave up a two-run double to Jacoby Ellsbury that ended the game, and Cody Allen will see their roles increased with Perez unavailable. Allen leads the team with 20 appearances.
Any hope of getting Brett Myers back from the DL soon has been tempered. Francona said Myers suffered a setback in his rehab from right elbow inflammation and will be re-examined on Tuesday.
“We’ve all just got to step up,” said Smith. “Cody’s been throwing the ball well. We’ve got a couple of guys struggling right now but we’ve just got to pick up the pieces until (Perez)’s back and he’s ready to go and everybody is in their normal routine. Right now with the way we’re playing – our offense is battling and our starters are throwing the ball well – when we get the ball we’ve got to get the outs.
“I don’t think we’re in a down period. I just think we blew a couple of saves.”