09/07/2011 11:43 AM ET
Chris Perez: Bullpen is a family
Indians closer talks about the relationship among relievers
In the bullpen, we have a lot of time to kill. One of the things we like is music. Our bullpen coach, Scott Radinsky, is the lead singer of a punk band in California. He is a real musical guy, but a different guy picks the music every day for us. Tony Sipp is our DJ, and usually it is hip-hop and rap. We never argue about the picks, however, we might switch during a game if we need a rally or something.
Over the course of the year, we come up with theme days. Sunday is for alternative picks, like Sublime or Blink 182. We once had an Oldies Day and even a Kids Day, where we listened to the Wiggles. I have one kid who is too young for those shows. Last year, Kerry Wood was on our team and he knew every word. He once told me, "Don't laugh, because you will learn those words as your kid gets older."
In the bullpen, we are a real family. When I got selected to the All-Star team this year, I told everyone that I was going there to represent our entire bullpen. I would not have received an honor like that without them.
The setup guys this year have been tremendous. Last year, I had a lot of four- or five-out saves, and this year they have been few and far between. Those guys and the work they put in are among biggest reasons I get to a save opportunity in the ninth inning.
Those guys also have an unheralded role. They get no love. Joe Smith, for example, has one of the lowest ERAs in baseball and nobody who follows baseball would probably know that. In all, we have three or four guys who have pitched well.
It seems those guys only get attention when something goes wrong. They also can pitch in a tougher inning than I do in the ninth. I might get to face the seventh, eighth and ninth batters in the order, and they face the top or middle of the order.
I know that role well because I have pitched in it. I think the biggest difference between the setup role and the closer role is your mentality. You have to deal with more stuff off the field as a closer, especially if you blow a save. If you blow a lead during an early inning, your club has one or two more times to bat, so maybe they can rescue you. If you blow it in the ninth, it is all on you.
An All-Star this season, Cleveland closer Chris Perez has 32 saves. He helps spearhead an Indians bullpen which has the second best ERA in the American League, is tied for first in the AL in wins, has issued the second fewest walks and has thrown the fifth most innings.