CLEVELAND: Roberto Perez made his major-league debut Thursday, catching and batting ninth for the Indians.
Perez, 25, was drafted by the Indians in the 33rd round of the 2008 Amateur Draft. He has posted above-average hitting numbers at nearly every level since joining the organization — mostly thanks to a disciplined approach at the plate, walking nearly as often as he strikes out.
Perez hadn’t shown much power until this season, cranking eight home runs at Triple-A Columbus through just 53 games. He had never hit more than six home runs in any full season before this year.
“There’s going to be a lot going through my head,” Perez said of his first major-league plate appearance. “The game is probably going to speed up a little bit, but I’m just going to try to calm down and not try to do too much.”
The Indians were originally planning to hold off Perez’s debut until Saturday, but a 14-inning marathon Wednesday night forced their hand early, looking to get regular catcher Yan Gomes some rest.
It might have worked out for the best, as Perez gets the opportunity to catch fellow rookie T.J. House, with whom he has a long track record.
“I’ve been catching T.J. since the first time I got called up to Lake County in 2009,” Perez said. “After that, I’ve been catching him for four years now. It’s good to catch him.”
Perez has been serving as the bullpen catcher since his promotion July 8 to gain familiarity with Indians relievers.
“He doesn’t know the Yankee hitters as well as Gomes does, for sure, but Roberto’s got a reputation of being pretty quick getting scouting reports,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
“And he’s been watching the last couple days, so he’ll be OK.”
New kind of bullpen
On May 10, free-agent acquisition John Axford was removed from the Indians’ closer role, and Francona has yet to officially name a closer.
Typically, that spells a bullpen in disarray.
That’s not the case for the Indians, whose bullpen owns a 3.05 ERA — third best in the American League and sixth best in all of baseball.
Francona says it’s because his guys complement each other. Rather than defining his pitchers to which innings they pitch, Francona assigns roles based on the type of pitcher each guy is and the situation at hand, a somewhat revolutionary approach in the MLB.
“Different styles,” Francona said of his guys. “Left, right. Breaking ball, two-seamer. Different styles for different hitters according to the opposition.”
Cody Allen has taken over as the de facto closer, although Francona is reluctant to give him that title or restrict him to the ninth inning. Bryan Shaw is the right-handed specialist. Marc Rzepczynski for the lefties. Scott Atchison is the groundball guy. Carlos Carrasco is a utility man, able to throw multiple innings at a time whenever the Indians need it.
Even Axford has been better off since the switch, posting a 2.35 ERA in the two months since his demotion.
As long as things keep going the way they are, who needs a closer?
August Fagerstrom can be reached at email@example.com. Read the RubberDucks blog at http://www.ohio.com/blogs/rubberducks. Follow August on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AugustF_ABJ.