Perez ahead of schedule, throws bullpen session

Perez ahead of schedule, throws bullpen session

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have not ruled Chris Perez out for Opening Day. As far as the All-Star closer is concerned, there is not even a question that he will be completely over his minor right shoulder injury in time for the regular season.

"I'll be there," Perez said on Monday. "The initial injury is gone. I'm 100 percent. Now it's just trying to get my arm strength back to where I can make 60 or 70 appearances."

During Monday's workout, Perez completed a full 35-pitch bullpen session, marking his second time throwing off a mound since straining his right shoulder on Feb. 26. The closer was only scheduled to do a light mound workout, but felt strong enough to throw fastballs, sliders and changeups rather than sticking with only heaters for 25 throws.

Perez said he is roughly three or four days ahead of the initial throwing schedule, and he is hoping to face hitters in a live batting practice session by Saturday.

"I'm ready," said an obviously excited Perez. "I want to face hitters again. I'm tired of them walking by and all of them laughing at me. It's getting to be that time of year. You see the light at the end of the tunnel. You're two weeks out. Cuts start happening. Guys start seeing how things are shaking out. You start getting those competitive juices flowing again."

Last season, Perez saved 39 games and had a 3.59 ERA in 61 appearances and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team for the second sraight year. Over the past three years, Perez ranks fifth in the Majors in saves (98) and save percentage (89.1). He signed a one-year, $7.3 million contract this past winter to avoid arbitration.

During Spring Training a year ago, Perez suffered an oblique injury in his first bullpen session and was sidelined from Cactus League action until March 29. The closer logged only three official innings in three appearances and was cleared to join the Opening Day roster.

"I was still kind of going through Spring Training in April even though I got off to a good start," Perez said. "It's not the most ideal situation. The most ideal situation would be to have a whole Spring Training and work on stuff, and try new stuff out. I can't do that now. I have to just go back to get outs.

"Last year taught me really how to go about my rehab. Last year I was more of a bull in a china shop, saying, 'I feel good today. Why can't I pitch?' This year, I'm letting the process run its course. I'm becoming more of a veteran. It's part of growing up in this game."

Perez added that he is eager to see this year's team take the field for the regular season. A year ago, the closer did not have the same feeling during Spring Training.

"It's totally different," Perez said. "Last year, you could see the holes. Our starting pitchers were getting crushed in Spring Training and everybody was like, 'It's just like Spring Training.' No, not when the guys are actually trying to get outs and they can't. That's not just Spring Training. We definitely have a different vibe this year."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.