Today we are going to take a look at the lefty portion of our All-Aught relief crew, and the first part of ‘Dos Rafael’ to enter our team of the decade.
The All-Aught Relief Pitcher #5 is Rafael Perez.
In 2007, Perez arguably became the best left-handed reliever in all of baseball during the regular season. In 2008, he was undoubtedly the best bullpen pitcher in the Indians bullpen. Now he didn’t enter this team without questions, and I’d even argue that Karsay was the overall better reliever, but no one can question the importance of Perez during that magical 2007 season.
The Indians signed Perez as a starter out of the Dominican Republic in 2002. It didn’t take him long to make an impact, as he was named the Appalachian League pitcher of the year in 2003 for Burlington, going 9-3 with a 1.70 ERA. He climbed up through the Indians system in 2004 and 2005, before finally breaking through with the Tribe in 2006.
At the end of 2005, the Indians’ brass began converting Perez to the bullpen, thinking that his fastball and slider fit much better there. In 2006, Perez started his year in Akron, in their starting rotation. The Indians called him up briefly in April for one appearance out of the pen, but was sent back down to Akron thereafter, and continued as a starter for the Aeros. In early June, he was recalled by the Tribe, and again moved to the bullpen. He wasn’t dominating, making 11 appearances and rolling out a 4.70 ERA.
Who could blame him for the struggles though, with the Tribe bouncing him around from the pen to the rotation, and from Akron to Cleveland. True-to-form, the Indians sent Perez down again, only to Buffalo this time, and finally kept the southpaw in the pen.
Perez began to shine.