Like every other team in Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians employ numerous players throughout their organization, from the big-league club in Cleveland to their rookie league team in Arizona and beyond. And like every other Major League franchise, the Indians add and subtract from this player pool on a regular basis. This irregular series will serve to post notice when a former Indians player has done something noteworthy with a quick look back at the player’s time in Cleveland.
Player: LHP Rafael Perez
Current Team: Indianapolis Indians (Triple-A Affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates)
Year(s) in Indians Organization: Signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent in 2002; designated for assignment and ultimately granted free agency by the Indians after the 2012 season
Why He Still Isn’t in Cleveland: Perez made his major league debut in 2006 and was an important contributor to the Tribe’s bullpen from 2007-2011, displaying both an ability to miss bats and an ability to limit walks.
But he struggled mightily in 2009, and while he continued to post decent numbers for the Tribe in 2010 and 2011, his peripherals weren’t as impressive and he simply didn’t look like the pitcher he used to be.
However, 2012 was completely different. Perez battled injuries and only made 8 appearances for the Tribe that season. The Indians designated him for assignment in November of 2012 (to make room on the 40-man roster for Nick Hagadone), and ultimately released him a few days later. The move was basically an early non-tender, as the Tribe weren’t expected to pay Perez the $2 million salary he was projected to earn through arbitration. He hasn’t appeared in the major leagues since.
After being cut loose by the Indians, Perez would go on to sign with the Twins in February 2013. He was released by Minnesota that May after pitching in just 4 games for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Rochester. A few days later, Perez signed with the Red Sox, and he pitched 30 2/3 innings (over 25 appearances) for Boston’s Double-A affiliate in Portland, Maine. With Portland, his peripherals improved drastically (8.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9) and he looked more like the pitcher he used to be. But Boston chose not to retain him, and he was granted free agency following last season.
What He Did: After spending this season with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock and a team in Mexico, Perez was recently signed by the Pirates and sent to the club’s Triple-A team in Indianapolis. Despite pitching mostly as a reliever since making his major league debut in 2006, Perez has started 9 games this season between the three teams he’s pitched for.
That includes an impressive debut with the other Indians on Saturday.
In his 6 strong innings against the Columbus Clippers, Perez allowed 7 hits, but only 2 runs (1 of which was earned). He struck out 2, while walking 2 more.
What Does the Future Hold: The Pirates have dealt with injuries in their rotation this season, and their current starting five includes Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke, and Vance Worley, with Gerrit Cole on the DL. The Pirates have received solid production from their starters, but they could also be looking at other options as well. Since Perez hasn’t started consistently in a while, he might not be an option for the Pirates — but you can’t rule him out, either. I don’t know how he does it, but Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has been able to get the best out of his pitchers in the past few seasons. If Perez is given an opportunity in the majors, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him succeed, but the real question is whether or not he’ll even get the chance to do so. But even if he doesn’t, Perez is still just 32, so he should have a few years left to prove himself and ultimately make it back to the major leagues.
Notice a player you remember being in the Indians organization? We’re ever-vigilant, but sometimes we miss guys, too! Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know which former Indians farmhand or player is making noise elsewhere.