CLEVELAND -- Members of the Indians' bullpen insist that the nickname thrust upon their group this season did not originate from one of the pitchers. It might have been a fan that started it, but no one really knows for sure.
One thing that is clear, is that the Indians' "Bullpen Mafia" has taken the name and run with it. It began as a hashtagged mention on the social-networking site Twitter. It gained momentum with an appearance by six relievers at the MLB Fan Cave. Now, it has become the group's online identity.
"We're making a name for ourselves pretty much through Twitter," Indians closer Chris Perez said.
It is just one example of how things can take off in this age of social media.
As a sign of the times, Thursday has been dubbed National Social Media Day -- and Major League Baseball has been embracing the technologies of interaction. The Indians, in particular, are one team that has integrated social media into its daily operations, and even encourages players to join the conversation.
Indians president Mark Shapiro -- or @MarkShapiro on Twitter -- addressed the growing importance of social media during Spring Training.
"Social media affords us the ability to create deeper connections with our fans and span generations," Shapiro said during the spring. "We are incredibly cognizant of social media's growth, and have developed a comprehensive social-media strategy to address it."
At Progressive Field, the Indians have the "Social Suite," a special section dedicated to social-media participants. Online, the club has created a "Social Media Clubhouse," which serves as a one-stop shop for all things Twitter and Facebook. In the team's actual clubhouse, Cleveland has multiple voices interacting with fans.
Beyond Shapiro, the Indians have Twitter accounts for their media relations (@tribeinsider) and public relations (@tribetalk) staffs. General manager Chris Antonetti (@IndiansGM) and manager Manny Acta (@Mactriber_11) are also on Twitter, though their involvement has understandably tapered since Spring Training.
During the spring and early into this season, Acta was posting daily updates on Twitter -- including a song of the day. Lately, though, with the Indians in the thick of the battle for the American League Central, Acta's posts have decreased. He feels Spring Training is a better time for interaction.
"I'm not really a Twitter guy," Acta admitted. "That's not my personality. The organization wanted me to interact with fans, and I'm doing it. But right now, for me, the novelty has worn off. I'm not a social-media guy at all, but I understand why the organization is doing it."
Similarly, Perez said Twitter is better suited for down time over the winter.
During the season, Perez said more of the "armchair quarterbacks" take to Twitter to offer up suggestions or criticism. That does not mean that Perez does not enjoy the interaction. Like Acta, Perez regularly offers up a song of the day, and he will reply to fans when he has time.
Perez is one of a handful of Cleveland players currently on Twitter, too. Other players on the site include third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (@TheChizKid), outfielder Shelley Duncan (@shelldunc), first baseman Matt LaPorta (@Gator4God), catcher Lou Marson (@LouMar6) and outfielder Trevor Crowe (@tcrowe4).
The Indians also have a host of Minor Leaguers on the website.
Then, of course, there is the #bullpenmafia.
Perez can be found under the handle @ChrisPerez54. Vinnie Pestano (@VinnieP52), Joe Smith (@thethree8), Chad Durbin (@chaddurbin37), Tony Sipp (@SippTony), Frank Herrmann (@FrankHerrmann56) and Rafael Perez (RaffyPerez53) are also on Twitter.
"I think the fans are liking it," said Chris Perez, "especially if they're following the mafia."