NILES - A two-time All-Star and the closer for the Cleveland Indians, Chris Perez is used to being in pressure situations.
He was placed in a new one on Tuesday at Eastwood Field.
The right-hander, who was making a rehab appearance for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers after injuring his shoulder in a May 26 game against the Boston Red Sox, came on in the fourth inning against Auburn with a 4-0 lead. The drama stemmed from the fact that the Scrappers hadn't allowed a hit to that point.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitcher Chris Perez delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game against Auburn in Niles. Perez, the Cleveland Indians closer, threw a scoreless inning in his rehabilitation outing.
"I knew about it," he said. "He (starting pitcher Matt Whitehouse) was dealing out there. I didn't want to mess it up. I definitely thought about it. That would be another thing I blew, a no-hitter."
Perez did his job, striking out the first batter, No. 2 hitter David Masters, on three pitches - all fastballs. He then got two strikes on three-hitter Wilmer Difo - a fastball and a buckling slider on the inside corner - before the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Perez fielded a soft grounder and tossed it to first base for out number two. He threw his first ball on an 0-1 count to cleanup batter Austin Chubb, and followed it up with two more that were outside. Chubb then fouled off two pitches before hitting a pop out to medium deep left field.
Overall, Perez threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes.
"I felt good," he said. "I was trying to keep the ball down, but tonight (my pitches) had some good life, and they were chasing some balls up, so I just kept throwing them there.
"It was a lot better than my last outing, obviously. I feel pretty close. I don't know what their plans are, but I'm ready."
The Scrappers, who won the rain-shortened game, 4-1, eventually gave up the no-hitter in the sixth inning on a ground ball that hit the lip of the infield grass and bounced just over the shortstop's glove. Perez was the story of the night though.
He's been in the news a lot lately, mainly because he was charged with misdemeanor possession after marijuana was mailed to his home in his dog's name. He later told drug agents he had pot for personal use and pointed out two jars, according to reports. The news he's made the past few years with the Indians has been about baseball, and that's what Perez is trying to get back to.
He has 104 saves in four seasons with the Indians and was named to the American League All-Star team in 2011 and 2012. He had a 4.32 ERA in 16.2 innings and six saves in eight opportunities for the Indians this year before leaving an appearance against Boston with "shoulder soreness." He hasn't pitched for Cleveland since.
"It's hard not doing your job," said Perez of being away from the Indians. "Rehab - it's boring, it's long, it's tedious, a lot of down time and you're watching games on TV instead of being with the guys. We have a good team, and we can accomplish some good things this year, and I want to be a part of that."
Perez hopes Tuesday was his final rehab stint after a rough outing last week for the Akron Aeros, when he gave up five runs and five hits - including three homers - in one inning. He said afterward his arm felt fine but something didn't feel right. Things changed with the Scrappers.
"Mechanics," said Perez of what was the biggest difference. "Last time I was flying open (with my release) and losing a lot of power and deception."
Perez, who said he felt fine physically after pitching Tuesday, added that after his struggles with the Aeros, he and the Indians' coaching staff watched film from a few years ago, when Perez was pitching as well as he ever had, and compared it to his appearance in Akron. He then threw a bullpen session last Friday to correct the mistakes.
"I'm not 100 percent, feeling like midseason form, but I'm feeling as good as I can right now," he said. "My arm is healthy, which is the most important thing. The more I throw, the more I play long-toss and stuff and get back with the team and start doing my normal routine, I'll be throwing a little harder. But I'll take the movement I had tonight."
One of the keys, Perez said, will be how he feels today, a day after pitching. Perez doesn't anticipate any setbacks.
"I feel like I could get big-league hitters out," he said, adding that the soonest he could return from the disabled list is Thursday. "It's up to (the coaches) though. They've got their reports and I'm sure they'll get the video. If they feel like I need one more (appearance), they're the bosses. I definitely feel like I could do my job though."