Even if a player shows up to spring training in the proverbial best shape of his life, it's probably important for him to pace himself through the six-week schedule leading up to opening day. That appears to be a lesson Chris Perez learned the hard way on Sunday.
The Cleveland Indians' closer will be out 4-6 weeks after straining his left oblique while throwing a bullpen session last Thursday. As reported by the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, Perez stopped after 25 to 30 pitches after feeling a pain in his side. At the time, he thought it was a cramp.
But did Perez try to go too hard, too soon? That seems to be what Indians' head trainer Lonnie Soloff was saying when he spoke about the injury with the media.
"His body was clearly not ready for the intensity of that bullpen session," said Soloff.
Uh-oh! Was Soloff saying that Perez showed up to spring training out of shape? No, said the trainer, but the session was more than his body was prepared to handle.
Perez didn't think Soloff was criticizing him, either. Rather, he was saying that for the pitcher's first bullpen session of the spring, it was advisable to go 50 or 75 percent, instead of going all out with a 100 percent effort. However, Perez felt that to do anything less would've been a waste of time.
And, Perez insisted, he is not out of shape.
Though the Indians hope Perez will recover by mid-March and be ready for opening day, this development is certainly another blow to the Indians' preparation for the regular season.
Outfielder Grady Sizemore went down late last week with a back injury that's been aggravating him for the past couple of weeks and expected to keep him out past the April 5 season opener.
But given Sizemore's injury (and surgery) troubles over the past three years, the Tribe likely had their fingers crossed for hopes that their center fielder would stay healthy. He already was rehabbing from surgery performed on his right knee in October, but the back injury will slow that process.
Cleveland does have a nice insurance policy on its roster with Michael Brantley, who filled in capably for Sizemore last season.
But do the Indians have enough depth in their bullpen if Perez isn't ready for opening day? Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp combined to finish 37 games for the Tribe last year, while Rafael Perez and Joe Smith each made 71 relief appearances. The team has also brought several arms into camp to compete for bullpen spots, including non-roster invitees Dan Wheeler and Chris Ray, along with Robinson Tejeda.