GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Talking to reporters for the first time since a right shoulder strain forced his withdrawal from the World Baseball Classic, Indians closer Chris Perez appeared optimistic Saturday, insisting the injury was not something that would threaten any large portion of the regular season.
"I think if this were the regular season, it wouldn't be an issue; I would manage it myself and keep playing," Perez said. "But this is Spring Training. I could've chosen a more aggressive route; it just doesn't make sense to, though. I wanted to play in the WBC, obviously, but if I chose the more aggressive route, I may not have been able to pitch a whole season for the Indians, which is my job. We're playing it safe because there's no reason to push it."
Perez initially felt a small knot in his shoulder while playing catch Tuesday but opted to try to work through it, pitching in a game against Kansas City later that day. The next morning, however, when he attempted to play catch again, the shoulder was too sore to throw. That was when he knew something was wrong. An MRI later confirmed his suspicions.
The 27-year-old originally called being selected to represent Team USA in the Classic the biggest honor of his career thus far, but Saturday he said the tournament was not worth jeopardizing his season with Cleveland.
"It would be selfish of me to put my wants of playing in the Classic above what the rest of the team is doing," he said. "It's disappointing, but at the same time, it would've been a lot worse to pitch through it now, then miss three months of the season. I can get over not pitching in the Classic. It was a tremendous honor to be chosen, but I can get over it."
Because of the Classic, Perez began his baseball activities much earlier this season than he normally would, but he does not believe that contributed to his injury.
"It was the same; I just started them earlier," he said. "There's nothing you can do to manage injuries. The only way you can stay healthy is not pitching."
For what it's worth, Perez is not as worried about this injury as he was last spring, when he sustained an oblique strain 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 before joining the Opening Day roster.
"I was more concerned last year because I wasn't able to pitch through it," Perez said. "I pitched Tuesday, though, with this, and it didn't make it worse. Plus, it's gotten better every day I've come in, so that's a good sign. Noticeably better."
Perez will not pick up a ball for the next week as he tries to give the injured muscle some rest before beginning his comeback. The timetable for his return is roughly three to four weeks, but the right-hander said he would know more once he begins playing catch again.
"If I feel good, we can accelerate it more at the end, just right now it's a slow, boring process," he said. "We're playing this a lot slower than we would if it were June or July in the middle of the race."
Knowing how important the Classic was to Perez, Indians manager Terry Francona was pleased with how his closer handled the situation.
"I thought he was very mature about it," Francona said. "The minute he felt something, he told us. And he was as honored as anybody to [be picked for the Classic]. I remember when I got that first phone call from him, he was off the charts. So I appreciated his honesty, because I know it was hard for him."
Whether Perez will be ready for Opening Day will not be known for a few weeks, but even if he does miss the start of the season, it will not bother the pitcher too much.
"Everyone wants to point to Opening Day, and rightfully so, but if I miss the first series, in the long run, that's not that bad," he said. "My goal is to not miss any games, but it's early. There's no reason to push it just for April. If there is any lingering issues, I'm not going to just try to get ready for Opening Day, I'm trying to be prepared for a six- hopefully seven-month season."
Perez totaled 39 saves last year to go with a 3.59 ERA over 57 2/3 innings.
Pestano will join Team USA missing a friend
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Friends, teammates and back-end bullpen arms, Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano were eager to put on the Team USA uniform together for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. But that opportunity disappeared when Perez injured his shoulder this week, leaving Pestano as Cleveland's lone representative on the American squad.
"I was looking forward to the Indians being represented late in the game," Pestano said. "Our eighth-and-ninth-inning combo has been pretty good the last couple years, and I think it would've been cool to see that in this tournament."
Pestano, the Indians' setup man, is friends with a few other guys on the team, but he will miss sharing the experience with Perez.
"I know a few guys from different circles, Fall League teams, really good friends of friends, stuff like that," he said. "I like to think I don't have trouble making friends. Obviously not having CP will make it a little more difficult, but we've all been around enough clubhouses to know how to interact and mingle."
Even though Pestano was disappointed by Perez's injury, Pestano did not express concern about injuring himself.
"I'm the kind of pitcher where everything is max 100 percent every time," Pestano said. "So I don't think mentally, I'm going to be trying to do so much more out there that I'm not doing right now in games. Adrenaline has a little to do with it though; there will be a little bit more oomph to it. But for the most part, it's not like I'm going out there still trying to figure stuff out; I'm 100 percent. I'm not expecting any fallback or anything like that."
Indians manager Terry Francona, on the other hand, does worry about his pitcher possibly pushing too hard too fast so early on.
"There's no way around it, but guys all the sudden play up to the competition level," Francona said. "Here they are not trying to make that 3-2 breaking ball with the bases loaded because they are just not ready to do that. You're amped up quicker than you're supposed to be. It's nobody's fault, I love the idea of the WBC, I just wish there could be a better timetable. There's no way to make it work though, I understand that."
Francona keeping bigger picture in mind
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Back with the Red Sox in 2004, Indians manager Terry Francona learned a valuable Spring Training lesson he still uses when making the final decisions on the 25-man Opening Day roster
Boston was in need of a utility infielder, and a prospect by the name of Cesar Crespo blew the doors off the pitching Francona saw throughout the spring. In hitting .354 in 65 at-bats, Crespo won a spot on the Red Sox roster to start the season.
But in the 52 games he played that year, Crespo failed to carry over the success, batting just .165.
"He hit everything in sight in the spring; he got hot early, and those guys kind of earn at-bats," Francona said. "But he wasn't ready to be a utility player. It wasn't his fault. He was used to playing every day in Triple-A, and we kept him for two or three months, it just didn't work. It wasn't fair."
The memory of that instance is something Francona continues to carry with him.
"The point is that it's great when guys hit in camp," Francona said. "You love seeing guys hit or pitch or whatever, but when putting your team together, you can't just go off of what guys are hitting during Spring Training. You have to take into account the role and things like that, too. That's why we tell guys just to play and let us worry about the configurations of the team. When you get called up might not be on your timetable, but if you can really play, it'll happen."
• In the final stretch of recovering from a strained oblique, Indians relief pitcher Joe Smith threw his second live batting practice Saturday with the hope of making his spring debut sometime next week.
"He's doing great; he's doing really well," Francona said. "He's just 10 days behind everybody else. But basically, there are no issues."
Smith had a 2.96 ERA over 67 innings with the Indians last season.
• A day after being shut down indefinitely with a sprained ligament in his right elbow, Indians reliever Frank Herrmann traveled across town to Tempe on Saturday to get a second opinion on his arm from Angels team doctor Lewis A. Yocum.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.