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Indians' Allen six saves shy of franchise record

By PAUL HOYNES • Updated Jun 8, 2018 at 10:27 PM

CLEVELAND — The faces and names have changed a lot in the Indians' bullpen over the first 60 games of the season.

It is never a good thing when that happens, but as of Thursday the Indians owned a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL Central despite having the highest bullpen ERA in the big leagues at 5.93.

The Indians have already used 15 relievers, including eight in their first year in the organization. It has put manager Terry Francona and the coaching staff in a difficult spot.

"The last thing you want to do is get a guy up because you're getting him up," said Francona. "You always want to have a reason. That's been the hardest thing ... and knowing how much rope to give guys. That's been difficult."

That has not been a problem with closer Cody Allen. Francona and Allen have been together since 2012. He knows what Allen is capable of and he knows he's asked a lot of him this year.

In the Tribe's two-game sweep of the Brewers on Tuesday and Wednesday, Allen saved both games. On Wednesday he pitched 1 1/3 innings for his 11th save. It was the sixth time he's pitched more than one inning this season and the fourth save he's earned that required more than three outs.

Allen's 12 saves give him 134 with the Indians. He needs six more to pass Bob Wickman, who holds the franchise record with 139. It is something Allen, understandably, prefers not to dwell on.

"I just go play the game," said Allen. "Don't get me wrong. I think it would be a great honor. It's something I'd be very, very proud of.

"But it's something you can't focus on because once you do it can get real tough."

Francona has asked Allen for long-distance saves this year because of the bullpen's struggles and wingman Andrew Miller's two trips to the disabled list with leg and knee problems. But this is nothing new. In 2015, Allen led the big leagues with seven saves in which he pitched more than one inning.

The positive sign in Wednesday's save was that Allen's curve returned after taking an unannounced vacation.

"It showed up, especially in the ninth inning," said Allen. "I've been working on it. As a bullpen guy you don't get a whole lot of mound time between appearances. You've got to figure it out as you go.

"When it showed up, I wanted to throw quite a bit of them to maybe lock it in. It's a pitch that's been huge for me in the past. It's kind of been my bread and butter. So to have it show up in a big spot was nice."

Bread and butter. In a difficult year for the bullpen, Francona could say the same thing about Allen.

Oliver Perez here to stay?

Left-hander Oliver Perez has a shock of silver/gray hair on the top of his head. The sides are shaved, but this is not a dye job like those favored by Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez.

"That's my real hair," said Perez.

Perez is 36 and has earned that gray. He is the newest member of the Tribe's bullpen, but this is his 18th year in the big leagues. So he's been around.

He was pitching at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre for the Yankees when agent Scott Boras called about his opt out clause on June 1. Perez exercised the opt out and signed with the Indians the next day.

"This is a new team and I'm very excited to be here," said Perez, who went to spring training with Cincinnati on a minor-league deal.

Perez has already made three appearances, striking out four in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

"I've still got a lot of passion for the game," said Perez. "Being at the field, being around other players. That's my job.

"I'm 36, but I still feel I have a lot left. The older you get, the harder you have to work."

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