Indians manager Terry Francona surprised many with the inclusion of demoted closer Chris Perez on the 25-man roster for tonight’s American League Wild Card Game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field.
Perez lost that role after giving up four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning at Minnesota on Sept. 26. Although Perez has 124 career saves, third-most in team history, Perez has not pitched since.
“I feel like he’s one of our best eight relievers,” Indians president Mark Shapiro said of Perez Wednesday on ESPN 850 WKNR.
Perez broke his media boycott Sunday in Minneapolis and said he was working on mechanical issues.
"I'm in a slump. It came at the worst time of the year. If this would have happened in April or May, it would (stink), but it would be under the radar," Perez said Sunday at Target Field. "Games are magnified in September, especially when you're in it. All I can do is work at it. Physically, I'm good. It's just a little mechanical adjustment I need to make. I threw a bullpen today, my first step getting back and I felt good. I still feel I can contribute to this team. I know I'm going to."
Francona said Monday he expected to have a nine-man bullpen against the Rays. He actually kept 10, along with starter Danny Salazar. Also at his disposal for the 8:07 p.m. game will be extra starters Corey Kluber (a right-hander) and Scott Kazmir (a lefty), right-handed relievers Perez, Justin Masterson, Cody Allen, Joe Smith, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Perez and left-handers Marc Rzepczynski and Rich Hill.
“Tito, that’s all he wants is a nine-man bullpen? I’d plug him in for a 24-man bullpen,” general manager Chris Antonetti joked Tuesday. “He’d have relievers in the outfield.”
As for the position players, the only surprises were infielder Jose Ramirez, who could serve as a pinch-runner, and outfielder Matt Carson, known for his defense.