Tribe add Perez; Barfield sent to minors
CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez jumped leagues and went backward in the standings. In three days, the reliever went from first place to last.
Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals to help Cleveland's dreadful bullpen, Perez, a right-hander with a fastball in the mid-90s, was added to the roster on Monday as the last-place Indians opened a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
"This is a great opportunity for me," said Perez, dealt to Cleveland on Saturday for third baseman Mark DeRosa and a player to be named. "Hopefully, I can help turn things around here a little bit."
The Indians entered the week 12 games out in the AL Central, a hole they fell into in part because of a bullpen that has blown 13 of 26 save chances. Last week, they acquired Jose Veras from the New York Yankees and have now added Perez, who had one save for the Cardinals and aspires to be a major league closer.
"That's my goal and that's what keeps me working hard," he said. "But we have Kerry Wood and by no means am I here to take his job. I'm here to try and help him."
Perez was 1-1 with one save and a 4.18 ERA in 29 relief appearances for St. Louis. He allowed only two of 15 inherited runners to score. But as the Cardinals attempted to trade him, Perez's appearances became increasingly sporadic in recent weeks.
He said rumors about him going to Cleveland had been swirling for weeks, but the Cardinals never told him he was on the trading block. Perez said his father, Tim, kept him up to date on trade rumblings.
Perez anticipated a possible move, but that didn't soften the blow when he was told to pack his things.
"It was kind of a surprise," said Perez, drafted by the Cardinals in 2006 -- one pick after the New York Yankees selected Joba Chamberlain. "I thought I might be going to Oakland."
To make roster room for Perez, the Indians optioned infielder Josh Barfield to Triple-A Columbus. Barfield began the season on the 25-man roster but has been optioned three times.
Perez was brought up by the Cardinals late last season when St. Louis' bullpen was going through problems similar to the ones the Indians are experiencing. Perez, who will turn 24 on Wednesday, took over the closer's role during the final 2½ months of the season and saved seven games.
Indians manager Eric Wedge plans to ease Perez into the relief mix -- if possible. The Indians need to string some wins together before a season with modest expectations is written off completely.
Wedge said the DeRosa trade does not signal the club's intent to look to the future. The Indians have been ravaged by injuries to key players such as All-Stars Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez, designated hitter Travis Hafner and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. Also, starter Fausto Carmona and reliever Rafael Perez, two mainstays on the 2007 club that came within one win of the World Series, have struggled.
The Indians are getting healthier, and Wedge is optimistic his team can improve.
He thinks the moves to get Veras and Perez will help.
"We're trying to put the pieces together that are going to help solve our bullpen," he said. "We've got to get it figured out. It starts with our starting pitching. We know that they have to do a better job of getting us deeper in a game, but when you're in position to win games you've got to win those games. That's your bullpen.
"There is so much season left. We still have a long way to go. Everybody has to look forward. We got our guys back and we're trying to get our bullpen figured out and we're going to get some starting pitching back soon, too. We've got to take all that for a spin and see if we can make a run at this thing."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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