CLEVELAND -- It’s the end of the Oliver Pérez era in Cleveland.
The Indians needed to make room on the 26-man roster for reliever Nick Wittgren, who had been on the paternity list since Monday, so on Wednesday the club announced that Pérez was designated for assignment.
“I was just having a tough time figuring out how to use him,” manager Terry Francona said. “I mean, for the most part, he was kind of pitching when we were in games that were spread out. That doesn’t necessarily fit the role you want for kind of a lefty specialist. I told him last night, I said, ‘Man, I haven’t figured it out.’ When you look at teams coming up, Chicago, Kansas City, we’re not seeing opportunities where we can leverage him like we hoped.”
Pérez had been everything the Indians could have asked for and more over the last three seasons, which is what prompted the club to bring him back on a Minor League deal prior to the start of Spring Training. But after Pérez broke camp with Cleveland, he wasn’t given many opportunities in regular-season games.
Pérez pitched in five games this year, tossing 3 2/3 scoreless frames with one walk and four strikeouts. Aside from one appearance in a one-run game, his outings came when the run differential was at least three. And while he had been one of the go-to arms the last few seasons, the club can now turn to Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, Bryan Shaw and Wittgren in high-leverage situations.
Even after parting ways with Pérez, the Indians still boast a nine-man bullpen, which Francona said last week wouldn’t remain the case much longer.
The 39-year-old Pérez ends his time in Cleveland with a 2.57 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 1.046 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 ratio.
Naylor OK after scary HBP
No one ever wants to see a 95.3 mph fastball coming right at their head, but that's what happened to outfielder Josh Naylor on Tuesday, who was somehow able to avoid disaster when an Alex Colomé heater left him face-first into the dirt. Instead of hitting his head, the pitch hit Naylor's while he was attempting to get out of the way and tumbled to the ground. After being evaluated on the field, Naylor remained in the game and was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
“It was kind of a weird play,” Francona said. “It hit both of his hands and then deflected and hit his helmet. But no, they checked him after the game and again this morning.”
Learning curve with young roster
As much of a process as it is for young players to get adjusted to Major League pitching, a similar adaption occurs for a coaching staff with new hitters.
“You can look at video of a guy that's coming in before you've ever seen him and break things down and get an idea of what you want to do,” hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said. “But you really can't just go up to a guy and start changing him before you get a chance to see him live and get to know him a little bit and know what makes him tick and make suggestions and adjustments as you go and getting to know how their movement patterns as an athlete. There's definitely a learning curve with that.”
The Indians have the youngest active roster in the Majors, and with that comes some growing pains. In just the first month of the season, the offense has already experienced a handful of peaks and valleys, and one of the toughest things the coaching staff may have to relay to hitters early in the year is how to handle the frustration of not seeing positive results.
“As a young player, you're trying to prove to yourself that you're a Major Leaguer,” Van Burkleo said. “We've had a lot of quality contact that hasn't gone our way. When you're a young guy and you're making quality contact but you're not getting hits, and then you start looking at the numbers, it can get in your head and make you panic a little bit. … That's part of the learning curve for young players. Some players it takes a couple years before they really get through that. Other players get through it a little quicker.”