GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It is never too early to start forming a contingency plan. That is why Indians manager Manny Acta at least entertained the idea of needing a temporary replacement for injured closer Chris Perez.
Cleveland announced on Sunday that Perez is sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a strained left oblique, but the team is optimistic that he will be recovered in time for Opening Day. In the event that Perez's injury lingers longer than expected, Acta said Vinnie Pestano would fill in as the club's closer.
"Vinnie will close the games if -- if -- Chris is not ready," Acta said. "He's the natural guy to go to. But you know what? We have a very good bullpen -- a deep bullpen -- and we have added at least three guys to our camp that have closed games in the past.
"That doesn't mean that they're going to be competing for that role, but those guys can fill into our bullpen and do a good job for us."
The three pitchers Acta referred to are right-handers Chris Ray, Jeremy Accardo and Dan Wheeler, who have all closed out games in the Major Leagues during their respective careers. Ray saved 49 games for the Orioles from 2006-07, Accardo notched 30 saved in '07 with the Blue Jays and Wheeler served as a closer at times during his tenures with the Astros and Rays.
Each of those three pitchers, however, are in camp as non-roster invitees, after inking Minor League contracts with Cleveland over the winter.
Acta made it clear that those pitchers have to earn their way onto the Opening Day roster before anyone can even consider them potential late-inning alternatives. Including Perez, there are five jobs accounted for in the Tribe's bullpen, and two spots available with a bevy of relievers in the mix.
Behind Perez, the projected bullpen currently includes Pestano, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Rafael Perez. The right-handed Pestano posted a 2.32 ERA in 67 games during an impressive rookie campaign in 2011. Over 62 innings for the Indians, Pestano struck out 84 while limiting hitters to a .184 average.
"We feel that with the Chris situation happening this early," Acta said, "and having that deep bullpen that we have, we can manage through it."