Spring Training 2012: Cleveland Indians' Chris Perez Optimistic About Injury

Bill Ford@billfordwritesCorrespondent IIIMarch 11, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 16: Chris Perez #54 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins in the ninth inning on September 16, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Indians defeated the Twins 7-6. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez suffered an injury to his left oblique on Feb. 23 during his first outing in a bullpen session, but he and the Indians organization are optimistic that he will return in time to close on Opening Day.

Perez takes it one day at a time to heal, and he told MLB.com that he feels good. Taking caution not to rush his recovery, he starts each day evaluating how he feels while throwing.

Cleveland was forced to shut him down for a brief time to prevent further injury. Perez has carefully started to throw playing catch at a distance of 105 feet.

Appearing to do well at that distance with no pain or struggling, he will advance to a longer distance, throwing the ball 120 feet.

If he does well at that distance without aggravating his oblique, Cleveland will allow him to begin throwing from the mound with a couple of sessions in the bullpen.

Once he demonstrates that he can pitch safely from the mound, he will begin throwing during sessions of batting practice against live batters.

The Indians have not set a goal for any specific dates about when Perez will return. He may not pitch in any spring training games, but they are still optimistic about his return for Opening Day.

If there are concerns regarding his health and they don't think that he is ready to pitch on Opening Day, then setup man Vinnie Pestano will fill the role of closer until Perez is ready to return.

Perez, 26, is just working into his prime. In 2011, he had a career-high 36 saves with a 3.32 ERA. Once he has worked through this injury and has fully rehabilitated, he should have a strong 2012 season.