Cleveland Indians fans received good news Friday, July 13 when The Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade reported Tribe reliever Rafael Perez would begin a rehab assignment Saturday, July 14. A left latissimus injury landed the lefty on the DL in late April. Considering a reliable replacement lefty specialist never emerged, I'm sure players, management, and fans alike will eagerly welcome back the southpaw.
Last season Rafael Perez, along with fellow lefty Tony Sipp, helped the Cleveland Indians relief corps gain the moniker "The Bullpen Mafia." 2011 saw Perez pitch in 71 games, keeping opposing batters hitting a mediocre .253 while he fashioned a 3.00 ERA and 5-2 record.
Initially losing Perez to injury seemed like no big deal because the bullpen still maintained Tony Sipp, who in 2011 garnered a 3.03 ERA and left opposing hitters batting right above the Mendoza line at .201. Yet Sipp scuffled so far in 2012, possessing a 5.65 ERA and 0-2 record entering play Monday, July 16.
Thankfully, as noted by Valade in her article, Sipp appears on an upturn. Through his last seven games Sipp limited opponents to an incredibly low .048 batting average. Unfortunately, I don't view seven games as a large enough sampling to affirmatively state "Tony Sipp is back to his effective ways."
Thus Rafael Perez returning to the Tribe healthy could do wonders for the bullpen, or at least I believe as much. So far in 2012 side armer Joe Smith, setup man Vinnie Pestano, and closer Chris Perez provide Indians manager Manny Acta his only consistently reliable relievers, not a good fact given seven pitchers form the Tribe's relief corps.
Yet hope exists. Back in June the Cleveland Indians gambled by acquiring right-hander Esmil Rogers from the Colorado Rockies for cash considerations. In 23 appearances for Colorado Rogers pieced together an unimpressive 8.06 ERA, walking 18 batters in the process. Throughout his first 12 relief outings for the Tribe, Rogers seems completely rejuvenated fashioning a 1.76 ERA while only walking one.
If Esmil Rogers continues his renaissance and Rafael Perez comes back performing similarly to how he did in 2011, suddenly Acta finds himself with five reliable relievers to turn to. Ultimately, five-seventh serves as a much more encouraging fraction than three-seventh.
Zachary Fenell fell in love with the Cleveland Indians during the 1995 season when the Tribe powered their way to the organization's first World Series appearance since 1954. While the Indians lost some allure since the 1990s you will still find Zachary watching the games on TV, listening to them on the radio, or best yet taking in a game from the stands at Progressive Field.
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