ANAHEIM -- When Indians closer Chris Perez notched the 100th save of his career in Monday night's 6-2 win over the Angels, he did so in a way that he probably wouldn't have, say, 100 saves ago: with total command and composure.
Perez came into a two-on, no-outs jam in the ninth and proceeded to throw 12 strikes in 15 pitches to retire the side and nail down his 32nd save in 36 chances. Perez says that efficiency is a sign of the growth he's experienced since tallying his first career save as a 22-year-old Cardinals reliever in 2008.
"I'm a much more polished pitcher now," Perez said. "Back then I would just try to throw as hard as I could to get guys out. Now I'm setting them up, trying to make my pitches. I've learned a lot."
With those lessons in tow, the 26-year-old seems poised to eclipse his career high of 36 saves, a mark he set last year after recording 23 saves in the previous campaign. He's allowed just 18 earned runs in 43 2/3 innings this season and struck out 49. His walk totals are down (11), he hasn't hit a batter, and hasn't thrown a wild pitch.
"The command's just there," Perez said. "The more innings you throw, the more pitches you go, the more comfortable you get. ... It's not as frustrating as it used to be. It's going where I want it."
His manager, Manny Acta, sees a clear progression from the time Perez assumed the closer's role midway through the 2010 season to this year.
"He has really grown into the [closer's] role. This year it's a totally different guy," Acta said. "He spent the first year setting up until we moved him there last year. ... He started with some forearm issues and the velocity wasn't there, he was getting used to it. This year he's been the whole package."