Perez: “I’m tired of getting booed at home.”
CLEVELAND — Chris Perez turned in one of the most dominant performances of his young career as the Indians closer to seal Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the Marlins. Then, as Perez headed off the mound, he noticed something different for a change.
The fans at Progressive Field were cheering for him.
“I’m tired of getting booed at home,” Perez said. “So I figured I’d throw some strikes today. You can quote that.”
Following an overpowering 10-pitch performance against Miami, Perez had a few things to get off his chest. He complained of being booed and mocked in recent appearances at home and opined that Cleveland’s low attendance at Progressive Field is a deterrent for players who have a choice to sign with the Indians.
None of this means Perez does not give his all while pitching for the Tribe.
“I’m here. I’m here to win,” Perez said. “I’m here for my teammates and I want to bring a championship to Cleveland, to do my job and help the team win. I think I do a pretty good job of showing that on the field. I don’t think I bring any undue attention to myself. I’m out there for the team. In big wins, I get excited and I’m like a kid again, because it’s fun.”
Perez certainly had a good time on Saturday afternoon, when he sent Omar Infante, Hanley Ramirez and Gregg Dobbs back to the bench with three consecutive called strikeouts. The closer let out a shout in celebration in front of one of the larger crowds of the season. The announced attendance of 29,799 was the largest since Opening Day.
It was Opening Day on April 5 when Perez’s latest battle with the local fans began. In that game against the Blue Jays, the 26-year-old right-hander gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning to blow his first save chance of the season. The boo birds came out during that performance, and Perez had no issue with that, given the circumstances.
“They had a right,” Perez said. “They could’ve booed me Opening Day, and they did, and I totally deserved it. That’s a different thing.”
Different than what happened on Thursday night.
Perez, who has gone 13-for-13 in save chances with a 1.72 ERA since that Opening Day debacle, entered Thursday’s 6-5 win over Seattle with the game caught in a 4-4 tie in the 10th inning. With one out, Perez allowed a single to Justin Smoak and then issued a walk to Casper Wells.
That is when fans sent a chorus of cat calls in Perez’s direction.
“They booed me against the Mariners when I had two guys on,” Perez said. “It feels like I can’t even give up a baserunner without people booing me. It’s even worse when there’s only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It [ticks] me off.”
“I got two guys on,” he added later. “Yeah, my release point was all over the place, but really? I’ve got two guys on. They haven’t even scored yet and you’re booing me? You’re saying, ‘Get this bum off the mound.’ Come on.”
In that outing, Perez retired the next two hitters he faced to escape unscathed. After he struck out Seattle’s Jesus Montero to end the inning, Perez did not enjoy the crowd’s reaction.
“The mock standing applause just adds to it,” Perez said. “You see their true colors.”
Perez said it has been hard not to be angered by the boos at home.
“It doesn’t bother me. It [ticks] me off,” he said. “I don’t think they have a reason to boo me.”
Perez, who is under contract for $4.5 million and under club control through 2014, added that the Indians’ poor attendance did not help the situation. After Saturday’s game, Cleveland’s Major League-worst season average at home rose to 15,518 per game.
The All-Star closer went as far as to say the low attendance hurt the Tribe’s ability to add players via free agency. Perez pointed to outfielder Carlos Beltran, who signed a two-year deal worth $26 million with the Cardinals over the offseason after the receiving a similar offer from the Indians.
“Guys don’t want to come over here and people wonder why,” Perez said. “Why doesn’t Carlos Beltran want to come over here? Well, because of that. That’s part of it. It doesn’t go unnoticed — trust us. I’m not calling out the fans. It’s just how it is. … Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans. We know the weather [stinks], but people see that. Other players know that.
“You had a choice of playing in St. Louis where you get 40,000 like Beltran chose to do, or you can come to Cleveland. It’s going to take more money to get him to come to Cleveland. That’s just how it is. That’s another thing that you have to go against. It’s not only the payrolls of the East teams, but that kind of stuff.”
Perez continued by saying fans should be not be surprised when players sign elsewhere.
“I completely understand,” said the pitcher. “The fans can’t take it personal when the players don’t want to stay here or players don’t want to come here. It’s a business. You didn’t choose to get drafted by Cleveland. I’m in it for my family. Who knows? I could throw my last pitch tomorrow.”