CLEVELAND — In the midst of a celebratory clubhouse Sunday at Target Field, deposed closer Chris Perez broke his media silence. It seemed like a fitting occasion.
“You can’t put it into words, especially after what happened last year,” Perez said of the Indians clinching their first postseason berth since 2007. “I think you have to give tons of credit to our front office. They made some really smart signings, really good trades.
“I could care less what I’ve done this year. We got our goal. We’re in the playoffs. It’s been a magical year.”
For Perez, it’s been a tumultuous one, to say the least.
The two-time All-Star began the season with an injured right shoulder, spent time on the disabled list and was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge. His performance on the field was subpar, especially over the last two months, resulting in him being yanked from the closer role with three games left in the regular season.
“It’s been an unfortunate year for me personally, with the injury and the off-the-field issue,” said Perez, who is 5-3 with a 4.33 ERA in 54 games and has converted 25-of-30 save opportunities. “It’s just been one of those years. It is what it is.
“I’m in a slump and it came at the worst time of the year. If this would have happened in April or May, yeah, it would (stink), but it would be kind of under the radar. Games are magnified in September, especially when you’re in it. All I can do is work. I feel good. I’m physically good. It’s just a little mechanical adjustment I need to make. I’ve had a rough couple months, but you can’t pick when that’s going to happen. This game can humble you fast.”
Francona made the decision to take the ball from Perez in the ninth inning, but the right-hander said he made the suggestion when he visited the manager’s office after a rough outing Thursday in the series opener against the Twins.
“I’m here to help the team,” said Perez, who has saved 124 games for the Indians since joining them in a trade during the 2009 season. “I went into Tito’s office the other night and said, ‘I’m not going to cost this team a playoff spot. We need to make a change right now. We’ve got four or five guys throwing the (crap) out of the ball. I don’t have an ego. Make the change.’ And he did. And that’s fine.”
Scott Kazmir said he wants to return to Cleveland, and it’s a safe bet the Indians would welcome him back with open arms.
“I would love to,” said Kazmir, who is a strong candidate for American League Comeback Player of the Year, going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts after spending last season pitching in the Independent League. “The staff, all the way up the organization. It’s a first-class organization. The teammates that I have, there’s great chemistry. I would love to come back for sure.”
Kazmir said he and the Indians talked contract briefly before both decided to table discussions until the end of the year.
Michael Bourn returned to the lineup Saturday after missing three games with a jammed right wrist, only to leave Sunday’s game after injuring his calf on a stolen base attempt in the ninth inning.
Bourn was walking fine during the postgame celebration and said he expected to play in the wild-card game Wednesday.
The Indians became just the sixth team in Major League history to end the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, with the Orioles last accomplishing as much in 1971.
• Cleveland recorded its seventh four-game sweep of the season to become the first team since the 1943 Cardinals to accomplish the feat.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.