CLEVELAND — Indians closer Chris Perez will not be activated from the 15-day disabled list until at least Saturday, but his sore right shoulder finally appears to be healthy.
Manager Terry Francona said Perez “feels really good physically, but is still fixing things a little bit mechanically,” which could force him to make one additional minor-league rehabilitation appearance before rejoining Cleveland’s bullpen.
“Chris understands that as our closer, pitching in the ninth inning of tight games, he’s got to be in top form when he comes back,” Francona said Wednesday before the Indians’ game against Kansas City.
“His mechanics aren’t there yet, so he’s probably going to make one more rehab assignment until he feels comfortable.”
The two-time MLB All-Star was rocked for five runs and five hits, including three homers, in one inning Tuesday pitching for Double-A Akron against Trenton. The Aeros lost the game 5-1.
Perez’s initial rehab appearance occurred Sunday with Single-A Lake County, where he tossed a scoreless first inning against Great Lakes. It marked his first game action since May 26 at Boston, when his ninth-inning implosion against the Red Sox sent him onto the DL for the initial time in his career.
“He did some long toss today, then we’re going to give him (Thursday) off for treatment before throwing a bullpen here Friday,” Francona said.
“If he comes out and is lights out in the bullpen, we’ll see what happens, but we wouldn’t activate him that night. It would be like having him throw both games of a doubleheader, and we wouldn’t do that to Chris.”
Though Perez (2-1, 6 saves, 4.32 ERA) wasn’t especially sharp before being injured, his replacement has been even shakier.
Usual setup man Vinnie Pestano (1-2, 2 saves, 4.05 ERA) has only thrown one 1-2-3 inning in eight appearances with Perez out. He has saved Cleveland’s last two wins after allowing a game-losing home run with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday against Washington.
“Vinnie has either been up (in the bullpen) or in the game eight of the last 10 days, so he has shown he is healthy, which is great,” Francona said. “The thing I love about him best, though, is he competes his (butt) off, he never gives in, and he’s not scared of any situation.”
Pestano also spent time on the DL this season because of right elbow tendinitis, which flared up after he pitched in three games for the United States team in the World Baseball Classic in March.
Since the WBC is owned and operated by MLB, in partnership with its players union, the Indians are required to allow their athletes to take part.
“Your body is not ready to pitch playoff-like innings at that time of the year, which is why we have spring training,” Francona said while choosing his words carefully. “But for Vinnie, it was an unbelievable honor and I would want him to do it again, if he is invited. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think it helped the situation with his arm.”
Francona planned on visiting the Horseshoe Casino following the Indians’ 4-3 win over Kansas City on Tuesday night, but changed his plans after turning on the television for Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs. Miami rallied for a 103-100 overtime win to extend the series.
“That was unbelievable,” the skipper said. “I sat down with a pizza and really enjoyed it. What an incredible game.”
Francona is an avid NBA fan who regularly attended Celtics games while managing the Boston Red Sox. He also sat courtside at several Cavaliers games last season, and has often expressed his admiration for the strength and skills of Heat small forward LeBron James.
“I would have loved to be a fly on the wall last night after the game, just to see how the players were doing, more physically than mentally,” Francona said. “When you saw the way that (San Antonio’s) Tim Duncan was walking with a little limp in his gait in overtime, it makes you wonder how badly he’s feeling today.
“To me, the physical aspect is going to be the hardest thing for San Antonio to come back from in Game 7. I can’t wait to watch it.”
The Indians have today off before beginning a three-game series Friday against Minnesota. That series also wraps up the Tribe’s nine-game, 10-day homestand.
Cleveland left-hander Scott Kazmir (3-4, 5.89 ERA) takes on Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno (3-1, 3.26 ERA) in the opener Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Indians righty Corey Kluber (5-4, 3.58 ERA) battles Minnesota righty P.J. Walters (2-2, 3.23 ERA) on Saturday at 7:15 p.m., while Tribe right-hander Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 8.40 ERA) challenges Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey (3-6, 6.11 ERA) on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Cleveland leads its season series with Minnesota 2-1, but has yet to play at Target Field in 2013.
Wheeling and dealing
The Indians have signed two more picks from the MLB First-Year Player Draft, bringing their total under contract to 16.
Fifth-round selection Sean Brady, a left-handed pitcher from Ida Baker (Fla.) High, and 37th-round choice Garrett Smith, an infielder from California Lutheran University, inked their deals Wednesday.
Brady was chosen No. 141 overall, while Smith was No. 1,101.
Cleveland Indians Charities will hold its 25th annual celebrity golf tournament today at Quail Hollow Country Club in Concord. The action begins at 9 a.m. with Francona and his entire coaching staff taking part, along with many former Tribe players.
l Shortstop Francisco Lindor, first baseman Jerrud Sabourin, outfielder Tyler Naquin and pitcher Cody Anderson represented Single-A Carolina in the Carolina/California League All-Star Game on Tuesday. The Mudcats went 22-48 in the first half of the season.
l Outfielder Logan Vick and pitcher Louis Head of Single-A Lake County took part in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday. The Captains completed the first half of their season at 23-44.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.