Indians bringing back crafty left-hander Oliver Pérez

CLEVELAND (AP) — Oliver Pérez’s long baseball odyssey spins on.

The reliable and crafty reliever agreed Thursday to a minor league deal with the Indians, who invited the left-hander to big league training camp to give him a shot to make their bullpen. Pérez has spent the past three seasons with Cleveland, appearing in 139 games.

Pérez will turn 40 in August and shows no sign of slowing down.

“I think one of the things we’ve really grown to appreciate about Oliver is not only his savvy on the mound and his ability to get outs,” said Chris Antonetti, the Indians president of baseball operations. “But the impact he has while he’s sitting out there in the bullpen with other players and the respect he commands within the clubhouse.

“So we’re really excited to welcome him back to the organization and see what that 2021 chapter of his career looks like.”

Pérez went 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 21 games last season while helping the Indians gain a wild-card spot. Pérez has a 73-92 record and 4.35 ERA in 18 seasons with the Mets, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Astros and Indians.

Pérez, who broke into the majors as a 20-year-old with San Diego in 2002, has played more seasons in the majors than any Mexican-born player.

Pérez may not be able to throw a fastball past hitters, so he relies on a variety of unorthodox deliveries to keep opponents off balance at the plate.

“He loves playing the game and just finds a way to be successful and give hitters a hard time,” said Indians pitching coach Carl Willis. “To me, that’s baseball. He pitches. He’s learned how to pitch. For an old guy like me, that’s fun to watch.”

Pérez not only gives the Indians a veteran, whose presence and professionalism can rub off on young players, but he brings balance to the bullpen, enabling manager Terry Francona to match up against hitters.

“It’s always good to have a lefty,” Willis said. “I’m not sure with the three-batter minimum rule now, I guess you’re always trying to take your best pitchers, but right now you’re looking for your best pitchers because they have to get hitters out from either side of the plate.

“I don’t know if it’s as important as it used to be because of that rule. But it’s not often you see a bullpen without at least one lefty.”

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