• I feel like I write “uh oh” a lot. Uh oh. Chris Perez left Sunday’s game with a sore shoulder. Boston rallied from three runs down to win but it’s tough to tease out how much of that was the shoulder and how much was Perez just being bad. Either way, shoulder injuries, especially those that require coming of a game mid-inning are nothing to scoff at. Regardless of what the Indians said after the game, this seems likely to be longer than a day-to-day thing, and could possibly land Perez on the disabled list.
Looking at who might cover him while down, it’s a bit of a mess. Vinnie Pestano has been the heir apparent for a couple years now, but is dealing with a 5.25 ERA and strikeout/walk rates that are well below/above his career averages. He’s always struggled against lefties (.339 career wOBA against), but this year righties are hitting him hard, too (.307). Not to mention his SwStr% (although not too far from 2012) has dropped every year in the big leagues.
While Pestano is the most handcuffed guy in the Indians pen, there are a few other options. Joe Smith is the team leader in holds and he doesn’t have a terrible platoon split even with his funky delivery. Even though his 1.06 ERA is buoyed by a 96.2% LOB%, his 3.34 xFIP would be passable in the ninth. He was actually called upon today with the lead when Perez exited, but didn’t acquit himself well, giving up a game-winning double to Jacoby Ellsbury. Bryan Shaw is another guy who has a too-good-to-be-true ERA, but also has closing experience in Arizona and a live fastball. Cody Allen actually has the best peripherals on the team (2.86 xFIP) and has shown swing-and-miss stuff everywhere he’s been during his brief pro career, but is also the youngest and least proven.
Tough to call. I’m a big fan of going after skills when mining for relievers, so I’m personally chasing Shaw and Allen first and letting others fight for Pestano and Smith. Given the way Pestano is pitching, it’s tough to see him pitching the ninth and Smith has the sidearm bias working against him. Unfortunately, this is one of the bullpens where it may be too late to do anything once Terry Francona tips his hand.
• While Jim Johnson started to look better last week, all that goodwill with fantasy owners unravelled quickly on Sunday. With his fourth blown save, Johnson’s ERA now sits at 5.25. Interestingly, his ERA-xFIP differential is reverse what it was in 2012; he actually hasn’t changed much peripherally (strikeouts up a tick, but walks too) but his BABIP is .329 instead of .251 and his HR/FB% has doubled. We knew Johnson was unlikely to repeat his 2.49 ERA/51 save performance from last year, but he’s not quite this bad, either. If you are a skittish Johnson owner, scoop up Darren O’Day for some insurance, but JJ is likely barely in the yellow, if that. He has some leash.
• Jim Henderson did eventually hit the disabled list with him bum hammy. While Ron Roenicke claims committee, John Axford came in early yesterday and Francisco Rodriguez got the top of the ninth down by a run (at home) today. I’m betting on K-Rod in the short term. Kyuji Fujikawa also is getting an “injury vacation,” again for forearm issues. If you have been holding him in shallower leagues, you can cut bait for now. Kevin Gregg‘s surprising hold on the ninth inning is that much stronger.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]