Perez to pitch in Minor League game Saturday

Perez to pitch in Minor League game Saturday

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians closer Chris Perez is moving one step closer to backing up his claim that he will be ready in time for Opening Day.

Perez, who suffered a right shoulder strain on Feb. 26, is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday afternoon. It will mark Perez's first game action since injuring his throwing arm in his last Cactus League appearance against the Royals.

The Indians are not ready to say if Perez will be cleared for the Opening Day roster.

"I'm still trying to kind of keep the party line," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We don't want to put that artificial deadline. When he's ready to pitch, he'll pitch. If he's healthy, obviously we'd love to have him, but only when he's ready."

Perez said earlier this week that there was "no question" he would be ready for Cleveland's April 2 season opener against the Blue Jays.

"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."

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 straight 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.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.