Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Indians News

Diligent Pérez ready for 3-batter minimum rule

@JesseSanchezMLB
February 26, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Oliver Pérez’s status in Mexico is unparalleled. The Indians’ reliever is entering his 18th season in the big leagues, the most ever by a Mexican-born player, and he’s very proud of the accomplishment. He suits up for his beloved Tomateros almost every year back home in Culiacán

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Oliver Pérez’s status in Mexico is unparalleled.

The Indians’ reliever is entering his 18th season in the big leagues, the most ever by a Mexican-born player, and he’s very proud of the accomplishment. He suits up for his beloved Tomateros almost every year back home in Culiacán during the winter so he can dazzle the fans who have watched him grow up.

Pérez has played for Mexico in all four World Baseball Classic tournaments since 2006 and he’s already thinking about 2021.

Viewed through that prism, it is a big deal that Pérez spent most of the offseason shuttling back and forth between his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Indians’ Spring Training complex 45 miles away to get ready for the season. The veteran is wise enough to understand that there is a new challenge on the horizon, and he needs to be ready for it.

“I feel like I need to rest my arm with what’s coming up,” Pérez said. “We also had a baby last summer, so it was good to be home with the family and prepare for what’s coming next.”

What’s coming next is the new three-batter minimum rule that requires pitchers to face at least three batters or pitch to the conclusion of a half-inning before being removed from the game, excluding situations that involve injury or illness. Of Pérez’s 67 appearances last year, 25 would be illegal in 2020.

These are the rule changes for 2020 season

“Before I became a reliever, I was a starter, so I know how to prepare to pitch in different situations,” Pérez said. “For me, I felt like I needed to rest my arm this offseason and get my body ready for the season. I’ll probably throw 20-to-25 pitches an inning this year, which is more than I usually throw, so I need to be ready for it.”

On Wednesday, Pérez worked one inning and struck out two with one walk in an 8-0 loss to the Padres at Peoria Stadium. Overall, he estimates he’ll throw 12 innings this spring with at least two two-inning outings. The numbers recognize an increase in workload from previous springs, but Pérez said the key to managing it is understanding his body.

“It’s a new world,” Pérez said. “I used to be batter-to-batter guy who had to be ready to pitch every day. Now, I just have to rest a little more because I’ll face more hitters. I know I can get all hitters out.”

Last season, left-handed hitters posted a .207 batting average, .607 OPS and 26 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances against Pérez. Right-handed hitters had a .286 batting average, .889 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 78 plate appearances.

“Oliver has just been awesome against lefties and he also has a lot of experience pitching against righties as a starter earlier in his career, and the first year we got him, he had a really successful year against righties,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. “He’s capable of doing it. He just has to change his approach a little bit. That’s what we talked to him about and that’s what it sounds like he worked on.”

Last year, the Indians re-signed Pérez to a one-year contract with a vesting option for 2020. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, a few months after his 39th birthday. And he said he wants to pitch into his 40s as he loves the idea of pitching at least 20 years in The Show.

“When you first get to the big leagues, there is no way you think you are going to play for this long,” Pérez said. “All you can do is prepare yourself to play all year, understand the game and all of the ups and downs that can happen. Everything that happens makes you better as a player and as a person.”

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.