GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Instead of going to the World Baseball Classic to pitch for Team USA next week, Chris Perez will be hanging out at the Indians’ spring training complex waiting for his right shoulder to stop aching.
Perez was scratched from his appearance against the Chicago White Sox on Friday after being diagnosed with a strained right subscapularis, a large muscle in the shoulder. And Perez isn’t the only Tribe reliever with a disabling injury.
Frank Herrmann, who is competing for a job in the bullpen, sprained the right ligament in his elbow and is out indefinitely.
Both pitchers sustained the injuries in their last outing, Perez on Monday and Herrmann on Tuesday, when he gave up four runs and five hits — including a home run — in one inning. Perez gave no indication that he was injured in his most recent appearance, throwing one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out one.
“Chris felt it in his last outing,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “We weren’t sure of what to make of it. He was examined by Lonnie [head trainer Lonnie Soloff] and our medical staff, and they came up with a solution.”
The plan is for Perez to cease throwing for seven to 10 days and begin a return to a throwing program when he is free of symptoms. He is expected to pitch in exhibition games in three to four weeks.
The key to his starting the season on time is how long it takes for the shoulder to stop hurting.
When asked if seven to 10 days was a reasonable time frame, Antonetti said, “That’s a fair assumption.”
Of course, nothing is certain, even though the GM is optimistic that Perez will begin the season on time.
“I think he will, but we’ll see,” Antonetti said.
Manager Terry Francona expressed a more cautious attitude.
Asked if Perez would be ready for the season opener, he said, “I don’t know. We’re going to get rid of it [the injury], so he can pitch effectively. If he’s good to go, then it affects nothing. If he’s not, we’ll back up Vinnie [setup man Vinnie Pestano] and the other guys.”
Said Antonetti , “We’re still hopeful that it [the closer] will be Chris. He was going to be away from camp for a few weeks, anyway.”
Antonetti was referring to Perez’s forced absence because of the WBC. Players on WBC rosters will return to their clubs when their national teams lose. For teams in the finals, the championship game is March 19.
Did Perez put himself in danger by trying to rush himself into readiness to pitch for Team USA? Antonetti didn’t think so.
“He came into camp in great shape to prepare for the WBC,” Antonetti said. “I don’t think that was a factor.”
Perez missed time in spring training last year with a strained oblique, but he pitched on Opening Day, though not well, giving up three hits, three runs and two walks in two-thirds of an inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.
He was able to pitch only three times in exhibition games, giving up neither a hit nor a walk, striking out two in three innings.
That is not typical amount of work that relievers receive in spring training. In 2011, Perez pitched in nine exhibition games, a total of nine innings.
Perez declined to talk to reporters when he left the complex Friday morning, but he later tweeted: “This too shall pass … Small hurdle at an inappropriate time. I feel better now than I did last year with the oblique. Still plenty of time.”
Justin Masterson couldn’t restrain himself from taking a light-hearted jab at Perez.
“He’s always done that in the spring, so he can take it easy,” Masterson said. “He just knows the system.”
If Perez is unable to answer the bell when the season starts, Antonetti won’t lack for bullpen help.
“It’s really difficult to replace a closer, and I’m hoping we don’t need to,” he said. “But we made an effort to acquire quality relievers over the winter.”
The Tribe’s medical staff was still working through the significance of Herrmann’s injury and how to treat it. For the time being, he will be held out of workouts.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.