Updating yesterday’s post, Rafael Perez agreed to a one-year, $795,000 contract. It’s clear that the Indians are betting that Perez Left can return to the downright dominating form he showed in 2007 (1.78 ERA in 60.2 IP) and the still excellent 2008, when he posted a 3.54 ERA in 76.1 IP. I believe that last number is significant, because I think overwork was the problem with Perez last year. Perez was one of the few things working out of that atrocious bullpen in 2008, and he became Eric Wedge’s go-to guy. Throwing 137 innings in two years is a lot for a developing young reliever. Yes, I know Perez started out a starter, but he was converted to reliever early on and you simply cannot abuse young pitchers like Wedge did. They aren’t used to the workload, and often it doesn’t show up until the following year (often called the year-after effect).
Interestingly enough, Perez was starting in the winter leagues in order to get Perez some more work. He made six appearances in the Dominican Winter League, with five starts. The numbers surprised me. 0.33 ERA, struck out 25 and walked 10 in 27 innings. Not too shabby. But keep in mind, this is the Dominican League. I still think converting Perez back to a starter would be disastrous to his development. You ever hear the phrase you have to go with the girl you took to the dance? That’s kind of how I feel about the Indians and Perez. They made him a reliever, he’s been a reliever for years, might as well get him straightened out as a reliever.
I don’t think Perez has the closer’s mentality, as evidenced by his brief stint in the closer’s role in 2008. Some guys have it, some just don’t. So I doubt we will see him in the role again. But having an excellent setup man could be a blessing to this team, either for the future, or as possible trade bait. And if he fails, and 2009 turns out to be who Rafael Perez really is? Well, then the Tribe is only out $795,000. And given Perez Left’s previous successes, I’d take that gamble any day of the week.