April 25, 2014

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Indians notes: Struggling Chris Perez loses job as closer

MINNEAPOLIS — Here’s something that should make a whole lot of Indians fans happy: Right-hander Chris Perez is no longer the closer.

Manager Terry Francona confirmed Friday that the Indians would finish the regular season closing by committee, with the game dictating which pitcher he would employ. The options are deep — Justin Masterson, Joe Smith, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw.

Perez, a two-time All-Star has been shaky for an extended spell — 7.52 ERA with opponents batting .345 off him since Aug. 1. The final straw came Thursday night when Perez allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-5 win over the Twins. It came on the heals of his fifth blown save Tuesday.

Perez (5-3, 4.43 ERA in 54 games) has allowed seven home runs in save situations, which accounts for the most by any big league closer.

“It’s kind of weird how things work,” Francona said. “When we lost Masty, we got (Corey) Kluber back. CP has his struggles, Masty’s back. We’ll figure out a way to make it work.

“We need to get (Perez) back to doing what he can do because he can be a force.”

Masterson, who is still mending a left oblique strain, made his first appearance Wednesday since Sept. 2, pitching a scoreless ninth inning in a 7-2 win over the White Sox.

The right-hander told reporters that he was slated to pitch out of the bullpen in the sixth inning. But he could be used anywhere in the game, according to Francona.

“The plan is for him to be a weapon,” Francona said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”

Francona said the Indians would not turn away completely from Perez, who could still be used as a late-inning reliever, just not in the closer role.

“How we use him, we’re not sure,” Francona said of Perez, who has 25 saves this year and 124 for his career. “We want to get him back to helping. He’s got a bunch of saves. You just don’t give up on that. He says he’s completely healthy. He’s not locating consistently enough.”

Perez, who has not spoken to the media for the majority of the season, declined to comment when reporters approached him Friday before the game.

But Francona said the maligned closer has taken responsibility for his poor performance and handled the demotion professionally.

“This time of year, there are no egos,” Francona said. “It’s just, ‘Put your seatbelt on and find a way to win.’”

Still mending

Center fielder Michael Bourn was out of the lineup for the third straight game as he continues to nurse an injured right wrist. He is available to pinch run, but still can’t swing a bat.

Francona said it was possible Bourn would return today.

When asked if he would play today, Bourn said, “I don’t know yet, maybe.”

Tiebreaker stuff

Major League Baseball announced the tiebreaker scenario should Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Texas all be tied at the end of the regular season.

The Rays would meet the Indians on Monday at Progressive Field, with the winner clinching a wild-card spot. The loser would then travel to Texas on

Tuesday, with the winning team in that game clinching the second wild-card spot.

The official one-game wild-card playoff would take place Wednesday. If the Indians qualify, they would host the game if it is against the Rangers, but not the Rays, who won the head-to-head season series against Cleveland.

Scary moment

From the department of the bizarre, Indians pitcher Scott Kazmir told reporters that he was trapped in the team hotel elevator at The W for approximately an hour and a half after Thursday’s game.

Kazmir said he was freed by firemen who pried open the elevator doors. He said he curled up in a fetal position and sat in the corner of the elevator waiting to be rescued.

Tito time

With the Indians’ win Friday, Francona has managed a team to 90 wins or more for the seventh time in his 13-year-career. He ranks sixth all-time with nine consecutive 86-win seasons — 2004-11 with Boston and this year with Cleveland.

Roundin’ third

Shaw and Matt Albers, both acquired in an offseason trade from Arizona, entered Friday having allowed just one earned run over a combined 25⅓ innings in September.

* Asdrubal Cabrera entered Friday batting .273 on the road and just .209 at home.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.