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All-Aught Indians: Closer: Bob Wickman (2000-2006)

Bob Wickman

Bob Wickman

Whenever I think of former closer Bob Wickman, three things immediately pop into my head:

1. He severed his index finger down to his first knuckle when he was two in a farming accident.
2. He has the most saves in Cleveland Indians history.
3. I had to purchase a defibrillator to help jump start my heart after nearly every one of his outings.

During the best of days, Bob Wickman stabilized the Tribe bullpen, providing the Indians with a surefire, ninth-inning save. During the worst of days, Wickman was an injury-prone emergency room filler, living on the edge during every appearance. Through it all, Bob Wickman was the only closer that provided longevity and consistency throughout his run during the first decade.

The All-Aught Indians closer, since we have to have one, is the hefty righty, Bob Wickman.
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All-Aught Indians: RP5: Rafael Perez (2006-2009)

Rafael Perez

Rafael Perez

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.
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All-Aught Indians: RP6: Steve Karsay (2000-2001, 2006)

Steve Karsay

Steve Karsay

Any big league bullpen is a hodge-podge of players. There are the golden arms that have been ear-marked to close because of their lightning fastball. There are the set-up men that are either young up-and coming closers, or former closers on their way out. You have your side-armers, spit-ballers, knuckleballers, LOOGY’s, long-relievers, spot-relievers and nowhere-else-to-put-yous. Garnering the last spot in the All-Aught Indians bullpen is just that nowhere-else-to-put-you in Steve Karsay.

Karsay’s name likely isn’t one that will come up on your list of top-notch Indians’ relievers, although he was exactly that. Karsay was mostly lost in the shuffle of a career marred by injuries and untapped potential. He started in 1993 as a 21-year-old gunslinger in a late season call-up by the Oakland A’s. He had skipped Triple A and pitched 49 solid innings before manager Tony LaRussa shut him down before his 50th inning to keep his rookie-eligibility. The following season, Karsay made four electric starts before elbow pain ended his season. He didn’t pitch again in the majors until 1997, after two elbow surgeries, including Tommy John in 1995.

The Indians acquired Karsay in late-1997 as a potential starter for the 1998 season, but he lost the job as the #5 starter to some kid named Bartolo Colon. Karsay started in the rotation in Buffalo, but twice ended up on the DL before being activated by the Indians on the last day in July as a reliever. After another start and relief appearance, he was sent down to Buffalo in late August, only to be recalled in late September strictly as a reliever, and was shelled to the tune of an 8.31 ERA. It wasn’t looking good, but Karsay felt fantastic healthwise, and was really beginning to find himself. He’d begun playing with a Cleveland staple, the splitter, and was slowly re-discovering his fastball, that was now being clocked in the mid-90’s.
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