CHICAGO: When a team is losing, its closer can be the forgotten man.
But he can’t forget how to save a game. If he did, he wouldn’t be the closer for long. So Chris Perez entered to pitch the ninth Tuesday afternoon and preserve the Indians’ 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
On his first pitch, Paul Konerko rocketed a fly ball over the fence in left for his 25th home run of the season, erasing half of the Tribe’s two-run advantage. Two outs later, Perez walked two batters before inducing Alexei Ramirez to bounce into a force play on the first pitch.
A reporter asked Perez about the excitement level of closing out a game.
“There’s no excitement,” Perez said . “My job is to get three outs, and I got three outs.”
But Perez hasn’t had many opportunities to do his job since the end of July, when Tribe leads have been few and far between. So how does he stay sharp between outings? Relief pitchers seldom throw on the side.
“No, I don’t do that,” Perez said. “What if they need me that night? So the only thing I can do is play long toss.”
Perez emphasized that there is no way to keep relievers on a regulated schedule.
“Either you have too much time between save chances or you have to pitch three or four games in a row,” he said. “It’s a man’s job; you have to be ready. You have to learn how to get guys out when you have bad stuff or when errors are made behind you.”
By contrast, members of the rotation pitch on a strict schedule and throw bullpen sessions between starts.
“I’m not a pampered starter,” Perez said.
In retiring the White Sox in the ninth Tuesday, Perez earned his 37th save of the season, establishing a personal best.
Perez has been the subject of controversy all season, because when someone asks for his opinion, he lets fly. He seemed wary Tuesday of being caught up in another firestorm when he was asked an innocuous question about what can be learned from a disappointing season.
“I have opinions,” Perez said, “but I’m not going to say them right now.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.