Chris Perez says struggles are mental, says he has to improve

CLEVELAND — Chris Perez has been walking batters, blowing leads in the ninth inning and throwing teammates under the bus.
That’s no way to act as the Indians’ new closer.

Perez inherited the ninth-inning job when KerryWood was injured shortly into spring training, but after converting his first two save opportunities, the right-hander has failed miserably in his last two outings.

His latest debacle came in the home opener Monday, when he allowed the last three Texas hitters in the order to reach base without recording an out, wasn’t in a save situation. But it did serve to further scare the Indians, who, if Perez can’t do the job, are without a legitimate closer for at least another two weeks while Wood (strained back muscle) mends on the disabled list.

For now, Cleveland manager Manny Acta is standing behind the affable Perez, who is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA and has allowed four hits and five walks in four appearances covering three innings.

“This kid, he saved two very good games in Chicago and we were celebrating and being happy,” Acta said of Perez’s consecutive conversions that came without incident against the White Sox. “He’s had two bad outings in a row. We’re not going to run him out of town because of that.”

It is just two outings seven games into the season, but there were signs Perez could encounter rough waters after struggling with his location this spring. Slated to serve as the team’s primary setup man before Wood went down, Perez, who was being groomed for the closer job next year, has shown that the transition may have come too soon.

“Based on spring training and what’s happened lately, I really don’t deserve that (closer) role,” Perez said. “Based on my last couple outings, it’s probably not going to be my role that much longer.

“I have to go back to the drawing board and figure some stuff out. Obviously I haven’t fixed what was wrong in spring training. I just have to keep my head held high and try to brush it off. Right now, it’s all mental. I have to start trusting my stuff again.”

What’s at least as alarming as Perez’s recent ineffectiveness is his reaction to failure.

After blowing a save in Detroit on Sunday by allowing three runs in the ninth inning, Perez not only questioned a call by home plate umpire Brian Gorman on a pivotal pitch, he also called out one of his teammates, catcher Lou Marson.

Perez felt Marson should have handled a pitch in the dirt that was ruled a wild pitch and allowed the gamewinning run to score. He said as much after the game, then confirmed his feelings the following day.

Perez didn’t have Marson to blame in the 4-2, 10-inning loss to Texas on Monday.

Throwing to backup catcher Mike Redmond, Perez fell behind the first hitter, Joaquim Arias, who doubled to right field. The following batter, Taylor Teagarden, dropped a sacrifice bunt, and with the Indians orchestrating the wheel play, Perez threw off the mark to third base. He walked No. 9 hitter Elvis Andrus to load the bases and was removed, with relievers Tony Sipp and Jamey Wright pitching out of the jam to preserve the 2-all tie for one more inning. This time around, Perez pointed the finger at himself.

“It feels like every pitch I throw, they’re right on it,” he said. “I can’t use my slider because I’m behind every hitter. It is what it is. I’m trying my best. It just hasn’t been good.”

The Indians need Perez to turn things around and provide some semblance of relief until Wood returns.

“I’m still confident,” Perez said. “It might just be one of those ruts. We can’t all be Mariano Rivera.”

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus