CLEVELAND -- Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera got a taste of the October stage as a rookie back in 2007, helping Cleveland make a push all the way to the American League Championship Series. He could not have known at the time that it would be six years before he'd experience the postseason again.
Cabrera arrived at Progressive Field on Wednesday as Cleveland's last remaining player from that '07 playoff roster. He smiled when asked about finally being back in the postseason again -- this time as a member of the AL's top Wild Card team.
"This is really nice," Cabrera said. "I'm enjoying all these moments."
After 2007, the Indians endured five consecutive years without a winning record. Last year, when Cleveland felt it had a team on the rise, it stumbled to 94 losses. The front office brought in a new manager in Terry Francona and overhauled the roster, leading to a one-year turnaround that resulted in 92 wins and the right to host Wednesday's Wild Card Game against the Rays.
The game is the first postseason contest in Cleveland since Game 5 of that 2007 ALCS, against the Red Sox.
"I've been waiting six years," Cabrera said. "We're here now. All I want to think about now is winning."
Is he surprised the Indians are back in the playoffs?
"No, I'm not. I really believed in my team," he said. "First day of Spring Training, I believed in my team. I know you guys didn't believe in Cleveland, but I did. I believed."
Over 136 games, the switch-hitting Cabrera hit .242 with 14 home runs, 35 doubles, 64 RBIs and 66 runs. Though it was a down year statistically for the two-time All-Star, Francona was nonetheless impressed with his play on the field and his leadership in the clubhouse.
"It's more behind the scenes," Francona said of Cabrera's impact. "He's very levelheaded. His clock for the game is very good. I think he desperately wanted to win more than people realized. Sometimes he tried to do too much. I thought he played banged up a lot this year, and that hurt his numbers. He's a good player. I became very fond of him."
Francona keeps Perez on roster for Wild Card Game
CLEVELAND -- The ninth inning no longer belongs to Chris Perez, but the Indians included the former closer on the roster for Wednesday's Wild Card Game against the Rays. Although Perez's role is undetermined, Cleveland feels he can still help to some degree.
Manager Terry Francona said he gave plenty of thought to keeping Perez on the staff.
"It wasn't a tough decision," Francona said. "You don't know how a game's going to go, whether it's nine, 10, 11, 12 innings. Given the right situation, he could find his way into a game. He's got 20-something saves. He's run into some tough outings lately.
"He's done everything with the right attitude, so I think we wanted to put him on."
Francona has avoided naming a specific ninth-inning arm and will continue to employ a closer-by-committee approach for the bullpen, which includes such options as Justin Masterson, Cody Allen and Joe Smith, among others.
Perez -- stripped of his role on Friday, in Minnesota -- threw off a mound on Sunday and pitched a simulated game on Monday to work on some mechanical issues. The right-hander finished the regular season with 25 saves, but he allowed six runs in his final two appearances and posted a 7.52 ERA over the final two months.
Francona noted that Perez willingly accepted a new role in order to help the Tribe's run to the postseason. After giving up four runs in the ninth inning of Thursday's 6-5 win over the Twins, Perez told Francona that he understood if he needed to make a change.
"He's wanted to be on a winner so bad," Francona said. "That day that everything culminated in Minnesota, he wasn't bailing. He just saw a team that had a chance to win, and he was recognizing that he was scuffling, and he said, 'I'll do anything. I'll pitch in the fifth or sixth.'"
Quote to note
"They've been dying for a game like this and wanting it so bad. So for a lot of reasons -- obviously, we want to win -- it would be great to not only create some excitement, but then extend it. These people deserve to have a chance to show their appreciation for these players, and vice versa." -- Francona, on Cleveland's fans
• As expected, center fielder Michael Bourn was in the starting lineup at leadoff for Wednesday's Wild Card Game after exiting Sunday's regular-season finale with an injury to his left leg. Cleveland ran Bourn through multiple agility and baserunning tests during Tuesday's workout.
"He did really well," Francona said. "If he can pass [Tuesday's workout], he can do anything. We ran him through everything -- full speed, turns, bases, outfield. He's good to go."
• Francona is thrilled that the Pirates not only hosted the National League Wild Card Game but that they advanced to the NL Division Series after defeating the Reds. Francona was raised in New Brighton, Pa., northwest of Pittsburgh.
"I grew up 30 miles from Three Rivers [Stadium], now it's PNC [Park]," he said. "Unless we're playing them, I'm a big fan of what they're doing, because I grew up there. I knew every lineup, from Manny Sanguillen to Willie Stargell to Dave Parker. I was thrilled. I thought it was really neat."
• Francona chose to go with the left-handed-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall at third base against Rays right-hander Alex Cobb on Wednesday, leaving right-handed utility man Mike Aviles on the bench. Aviles is 0-for-7 in his career against Cobb, and Chisenhall had a .583 slugging percentage against righties in September.
• The Indians claimed right-hander Tyler Cloyd off waivers from the Phillies on Wednesday and designated lefty Clay Rapada for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Cloyd went 4-9 with a 5.98 ERA in 19 games with the Phillies between 2012 and 2013. In 2012 he went 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 26 Minor League starts between Double-A and Triple-A in Philadelphia's farm system.