ST. PETERSBURG -- Teams without a true closer sometimes have to use some unorthodox tactics to get a save. For the Indians on Monday night, the tactic was to give Rafael Perez the opportunity for a two-inning save. Perez had no trouble delivering. He turned in a seamless outing against the Rays, working two perfect innings and striking out two batters along the way to put the finishing touch on a 5-2 victory at Tropicana Field.
Not bad for 15 pitches of work. "I didn't mind it," manager Eric Wedge said, "let me tell you." Wedge wondered aloud whether it was the first time in his six-year tenure at the helm of the Indians that a reliever had a two-inning save. It wasn't. In fact, the last time it happened was right in this building. Tom Mastny had a two-inning save on Aug. 19, 2006, against the Rays. But suffice to say, it's rare in today's era of specialty relievers for a manager to send a guy out for the two-inning save on purpose. "It wasn't like [former Yankees reliever] Sparky Lyle coming out in the fourth inning and running through the ninth," Wedge said. "But we'll take it." When it comes to managing his beleaguered bullpen, Wedge has taken a liking to leaning on Perez. Though the left-handed Perez was spotty at times early this year, he has improved as the season has progressed and become, perhaps, the most reliable arm on hand. Of his last 13 appearances, 10 have been scoreless, and he's allowed just five earned runs in his last 22 1/3 innings pitched, dating back to June 20. Perez is tied for seventh among AL relievers in appearances -- with 50 -- and is ninth in innings pitched, with 54 2/3 innings. "I'm very confident in him," Wedge said. "I think he's one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. When you look at last year, he was [pitching in the] sixth, seventh and eighth. This year, it's the seventh, eighth and ninth. It's a great experience for him." Wedge isn't grooming Perez as a closer. He has said before that the Indians are better off with having a dominant lefty like Perez in a setup role, where he can give the team leverage in matchups or give them length, as was the case Monday. "He's been aggressive," Wedge said. "He puts [opposing batters] on the defensive."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.