Last month, I was not only calling for Rafael Perez’s roster spot, I was calling for his head. His ERA was 7.20, his WHIP was worse, he looked nothing like the dominant lefty we saw in 2007 or even the still very good one the Indians had in 2008. I believed Eric Wedge’s abuse of Perez from 2007-2009 had finally caught up to Perez, and that he was ruined as a pitcher.
Looks like I spoke too soon. Quietly and steadily, Perez is becoming a viable option at the back end of the bullpen again. For all the talk of the Jekyl and Hyde act that Tony Sipp has done this season, Raffy Perez is doing the same thing, only he’s actually improving.
Consider these stats for the month of June: 13 appearances, 10.2 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 10 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs. Now that’s the Raffy Perez I remember. His ERA has lowered to 4.21. His WHIP is still an ugly 1.79, but given how bad he was at the beginning of the season, it’s kind of remarkable he’s got it that low again.
Assuming Kerry Wood is traded or cut, having an effective Raffy Perez at the back end of the bullpen as a left-handed option to complement Chris Perez (and potentially Frank Herrmann, if he continues to pitch as well as he has) would be HUGE for this young team. For starters to be able to give six or seven strong innings and to not have to worry about the last two innings because of the Perezes, I think it would just make everyone’s lives easier (especially fans).
Of course, since Raffy Perez has re-earned his roster spot, this (once again) leaves Jensen Lewis as the odd man out in the bullpen. I’m curious to see what they do with Lewis after this season when his options are gone. He’s shown flashes of promise sandwiched in between the all-too-familiar inconsistency Tribe fans have come to expect from relievers. I think he’s given one more season to prove himself, but Lewis no longer has the safety net of knowing he has Raffy Perez’s roster spot available.