November 22, 2014

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Indians closer Chris Perez blasts fans, says they’re the reason free agents avoid Cleveland

CLEVELAND — Chris Perez had just struck out the side to preserve a 2-0 victory and earn his 13th save. He should have been happy, but he wasn’t.

The fiery Perez used his postgame meeting with the media to blister Indians fans for the team’s last-place standing in attendance and for booing him, even going as far as saying the lack of support has contributed to the team’s inability to sign free agents.

“I’m tired of getting booed at home, so I figured I’d throw some strikes today,” said Perez, who has been treated roughly at home after suffering his only blown save on Opening Day and during his previous outing Thursday.

“You can quote that. It doesn’t bother me. It (ticks) me off. I don’t think they have a reason to boo me. They booed me against the Mariners when I had two guys on. It feels like I can’t even give up a baserunner without people booing me. It’s even worse when there’s only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It (ticks) me off.

“I’m not calling out the fans. It’s just how it is. That stuff is reserved for road games. We don’t want to deal with that crap. Here, good fans are supposed to help you try to get through the inning and say, ‘Hey, you’re only one pitch away,’ or ‘Hey, it’s all right.’ And then after I struck out (Seattle’s Jesus Montero), the mock standing applause just adds to it. You see their true colors.”

The Indians made a strong attempt to sign free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran this offseason, with Beltran instead choosing to sign with St. Louis, despite what was reported to be similar contract offers.

Perez, who was acquired in a trade with the Cardinals for Mark DeRosa in 2009, said he understands Beltran’s decision.

“Guys don’t want to come over here and people wonder why,” Perez said. “Why doesn’t Carlos Beltran want to come over here? Well, because of that. That’s part of it. It doesn’t go unnoticed — trust us. That’s definitely a huge reason. Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans. We know the weather (stinks), but people see that. Other players know that.

“You had a choice of playing in St. Louis where you get 40,000 (fans) like Beltran chose to do, or you can come to Cleveland. It’s going to take more money to get him to come to Cleveland. That’s just how it is. That’s another thing that you have to go against. It’s not only the payrolls of the (American League) East teams, but that kind of stuff.”

Perez’s timing was a bit odd, considering the Indians had just drawn their largest crowd (29,799) since Opening Day and had 29,378 in the park the night before. The right-hander has sympathy for the down economic times in Cleveland that may be contributing to the poor attendance, but he thinks fans should see both sides.

“I understand. I completely understand, but the fans can’t take it personal when the players don’t want to stay here or players don’t want to come here,” he said. “It’s a business. You didn’t choose to get drafted by Cleveland. I’m in it for my family. Who knows? I could throw my last pitch tomorrow.

“At the same time, I’m here. I’m here to win. I’m here for my teammates and I want to bring a championship to Cleveland, to do my job and help the team win. I think I do a pretty good job of showing that on the field. I don’t think I bring any undue attention to myself. I’m out there for the team. In big wins, I get excited and I’m like a kid again, because it’s fun.”

Perez has been close to perfect in save opportunities this year, converting 13 straight since the first game of the season, while owning an 0-1 record and 3.31 ERA in 18 appearances.

But Indians fans appear to have not forgotten his Opening Day effort.

“They could’ve booed me Opening Day, and they did, and I totally deserved it,” Perez said. “That’s a different thing. I got two guys on (against Seattle). Yeah, my release point was all over the place, but really? I’ve got two guys on. They haven’t even scored yet and you’re booing me? You’re saying, ‘Get this bum off the mound?’ Come on.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him
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