Monday, June 29, 2009

Bradenton kid could be Indians' new closer

Chris Perez, a St. Louis Cardinals reliever and former Manatee High and Pendleton School standout, was traded to the Cleveland Indians over the weekend for infielder Mark DeRosa.

That's an interesting tidbit for those who follow the careers of Manatee County athletes. But why should fantasy players care?

Here's the deal: Perez is a big, hard-throwing right-hander who's been pegged as a future big league closer for some time now. The 23-year-old didn't quite do enough this year to beat out Ryan Franklin and Jason Motte and win the favor of Cards manager Tony La Russa for the team's closer duties. But the move to Cleveland opens a whole new world of possibility for him. In case you haven't noticed, the Tribe's free-agent signing of Kerry Wood hasn't exactly been an overwhelming success. Wood's 5.47 ERA and 1.56 WHIP are pretty atrocious. He hasn't had that many save opportunities with the Indians struggling so mightily in 2009, but Wood has also managed to blow four of 13 chances.

Wood's still got another year on his deal with Cleveland, and the team doesn't have many other reliable options in its bullpen, which means the job will probably still belong to him at least through this season, barring a complete meltdown or an injury. But expect Perez to get some serious on-the-job training as Wood's set-up man this season. I predict he'll take over ninth-inning duties by the middle of next year - which means he should stay on fantasy players' radar. He's the Indians' closer of the future.

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