Former Indians closer Perez gets a chance with Brewers
The Brewers’ search for a reliever with closing experience led them to former Indians All-Star Chris Perez, who inked a Minor League contract Wednesday with invitation to big league Spring Training camp.
Perez, an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, has dealt with off-field drama and on-field struggles over the past two seasons, but is still just 29 years old and averaged a 94.3 mph fastball last season with the Dodgers, his best velocity since 2010. The right-hander met about 10 days ago in Tampa with Brewers Minor League pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin and pro scout Cory Melvin and made a pitch for a bounce-back.
“He’s geared up to get back to where he’s pitched before,” said Doug Melvin, Corey’s father and the Brewers’ GM. “Sometimes with relievers, they have good years, bad years, and can bounce back. He’s got a good enough arm.”
Perez took over as Cleveland’s closer in 2010 and, over his first three seasons in that role, compiled 98 saves with a 1.137 WHIP. But he began to fade in 2013, pleading guilty to a drug charge after a package containing marijuana was sent to his home. He converted 25 of 30 save chances, lost the closer’s role in late September as Cleveland chased a postseason position, and was let go in October.
He signed with the Dodgers for 2014 and posted a 4.27 ERA in 49 games as a set-up man. When Perez was struggling with unfamiliar mop-up duties in early August, the Dodgers placed him on the disabled list and sent him to a nearby Class A affiliate. When he returned, Perez pitched a spotless September, logging nine scoreless appearances while holding hitters to a .087 average.
According to a source,
Broxton Perez can top out at $3 million if he makes Milwaukee’s Opening Day roster and hits all of the incentives built into his contract. Per club policy, the Brewers did not release any salary details.
Melvin has been in the market for experienced bullpen arms all winter, and have had recent talks with the Phillies about closer Jonathan Papelbon, and with agent Scott Boras about the return of free agent Francisco Rodriguez. Melvin offered no updates on either of those possibilities Wednesday in the wake of the Perez news.
At the moment, the Brewers plan to enter the season with Jonathan Broxton as the closer. Left-hander Will Smith and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress figure to fill-set-up roles, and both have some closer potential. The Brewers also have right-hander Brandon Kintzler and newly-signed left-hander Neal Cotts penciled in for spots. Perez would join a group of players vying for other openings.
“The one thing is, I think we’re creating competition,” Melvin said. “You just can’t commit seven guys to the bullpen; you have to have some flexibility. But whether it’s the off-season or in-season, you’re always looking to improve your ballclub.”
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