Rafael Perez getting closer to returning

Rafael Perez getting closer to returning

Rafael Perez getting closer to returning
ST. PETERSBURG -- One of the Indians' issues this season has been a lack of a consistent performance by its left-handed relievers. A large part of the problem has been the absence of veteran southpaw Rafael Perez.

"We feel that he could help us up here," Indians manager Manny Acta said.

On Wednesday, Perez was transferred to Triple-A Columbus to continue his rehab from a left-lat strain that has kept him sidelined since April 26. Perez, who is on the 60-day disabled list, is scheduled to pitch in a bullpen session in Cleveland on Friday following his outing with Columbus.

Beyond that, Acta said the current plan calls for Perez to pitch in back-to-back Minor League rehab games (likely with Double-A Akron) on Monday and Tuesday. Barring setbacks, it is possible that the Indians will consider activating the left-hander after that final step in the process.

Perez turned in a 3.00 ERA in 71 games for the Indians last season, and had a 3.52 ERA in eight appearances this year before being shelved with the injury.

Cleveland's other lefty options have struggled over the past few months. Tony Sipp has posted a 5.40 ERA through 36 games and is now being used primarily as a lefty specialist. Nick Hagadone had a 6.39 ERA in 27 appearances, but is likely done for the season with a left-hand injury. Rookie Scott Barnes has an 8.31 ERA through six games.

One issue with Perez was a significant drop in velocity earlier this season. The lefty was consistently clocked around 83-85 mph before being placed on the disabled list, but Acta said Wednesday that Perez was back up to 85-87 mph in his recent Minor League outings.

"It's going to take a little bit of time to get him up to that 89-91, where he used to be," Acta said. "But, if he's pain free, he relies a lot on movement and stuff like that."