05/05/12 12:52 AM ET
Perez has rebounded since Opening Day
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
The closer surrendered three runs in the ninth inning in the season's initial contest, blowing a save in a game the Indians lost in an Opening Day-record 16 frames. Since that outing, however, he has converted 10 consecutive save opportunities, for the most in baseball.
"It was just an aberration on Opening Day," Perez said. "I told people that it was an out-of-body experience. I don't know what happened. I wish I did. You can just chalk it up to inexperience, being young, being a little bit over-excited. But next year, if I get that call again, I'll be able to fall back on that experience."
Perez strained an oblique during Spring Training and made just three appearances before his forgettable outing on Opening Day, but his confidence never wavered. He points to his late-season performance in 2011 -- he posted a 7.71 ERA in September -- as the reason for fan unrest after the blown save.
"I had that blip on Opening Day and it harkened back to some of my outings in September last year, so the leash got shorter," he said. "But in my mind, I told everybody in Spring Training that my arm feels better than it did at any point last year, and I'm sticking with that. I feel great.
"It was Game 1. I had 161 more games to go. It could get bad really fast. But it's a long season; I knew I had time to get back on the horse."
Indians react to Rivera's season-ending injury
CLEVELAND -- When news spread about Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and the torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee, all bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. could do was shake his head.
"That's what happens in sports," said Alomar. "People can fall in the shower and bust everything up. It happened to him shagging fly balls on the field, something he's been doing for years. It's just unfortunate for a guy that has a lot of respect, it's a shame that he goes down that way. But that's the nature of this game or in sports."
Rivera, baseball's all-time leader in saves and games finished, sustained the injury on Thursday. Less than 24 hours later, he vowed to put off retirement and rehab his injury in an attempt to return to the mound.
"He is the best at what he does," said Tribe closer Chris Perez. "He's the best closer ever. Hopefully, he can rehab and come back and go out on his own terms. I think he deserves that."
Rivera's knee buckled while he was shagging fly balls in the outfield prior to Thursday's contest. It's a routine he has practiced throughout his 18-year career. Perez, who also shags before games, said that sustaining a non-pitching injury would be more frustrating but cautioned that such an injury could occur at any time.
"We're not immune; we're human just like anybody else," Perez said. "We could get hurt slipping in the bathtub. If you're not careful, it could happen at any time. It's just unfortunate. It was an awkward situation. It was a freak thing."
Left fielder Johnny Damon played with Rivera in New York from 2006 to 2009 and couldn't blame the 42-year-old for maintaining his outfield routine.
"For the past 17 years, he was probably the best center fielder the New York Yankees had," Damon said. "That's how good of a shagger he was. It was just one of those freak things."
Acta plans to use durable Damon often
CLEVELAND -- Johnny Damon is 38 years old, he played just 17 games in the field last year and he made an early exit from his first contest with the Indians on Wednesday after cramping up.
However, it shouldn't be too surprising that skipper Manny Acta penciled Damon into the leadoff spot on his lineup card on Friday for the third consecutive game. Damon has played in at least 140 games in 16 consecutive seasons.
"I plan to go out there and play hard and give this team everything they want," said Damon, who joined the club in Chicago on Tuesday. "Hopefully, we won't have too many instances like we had the other night, but that kind of stuff happens. It's going to happen until the end of time in baseball."
Damon is still adjusting to the daily baseball grind. He spent about two weeks at the Indians' Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., before joining the big league club.
"I probably need to get used to the grind of playing the outfield again and get used to the humidity again," he said. "Being in Arizona for the past couple of weeks, there's no humidity or sweating, that could have gotten the best of me."
Unless he channels his inner Cal Ripken Jr., Damon probably won't reach the 140-game plateau. He does, however, consider himself to be in peak shape, though he admitted he needs to adjust to the rigors that come with daily nine-inning affairs.
"I feel great," he said. "But it's the constant pounding of the season, the getting up, taking a break, getting up again, taking a break. That's the biggest thing."
Acta spoke highly of Damon's track record, adding that it will be critical to have him healthy and in the lineup as often as possible.
"We're going to do the best we can," Acta said, "to keep him healthy and see how much he can play in the outfield and help our lineup out."
Quote to note
"If I don't play well, it could be the end, and I'm not quite ready for that. That's why I wanted to come out and join the Indians and see what we can make of this." -- Johnny Damon
The Indians and Rangers both entered Friday 12-6 since April 13, tied for the third-best record in baseball during that stretch.
Cleveland relievers entering Friday had a 2.05 ERA over the last 15 games.