When Indians closer Chris Perez suffered a strained left oblique on February 24 — during his first bullpen session of the spring — the general belief was that he would be inactive at the beginning of the regular season. But Perez has defied the odds, and should be ready for a save opportunity on Opening Day.
According to beat writer Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Perez tossed 20 pitches of live batting practice Wednesday afternoon in Indians camp, reporting no lingering pain or discomfort on the left side of his body. If he wakes up feeling normal on Thursday morning, the right-hander could be cleared to make his Cactus League debut on Friday or Saturday.
As a reliever, he only needs a handful of spring innings to get properly tuned up for regular-season action.
Perez, 26, registered a cool 3.32 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 59 2/3 innings last year for Cleveland, collecting 36 saves in 40 opportunities. He carries a 3.13 career ERA, a 1.19 career WHIP and an 8.5 K/9.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.