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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

Relief pitchers represent solid strength for Cleveland Indians


The Indians' record during the past three years is 217-269 (.447). It includes one second-place finish, two fourth-place finishes, and two seasons with 93 or more losses.

During that same period, the Indians are 77-59 (.566) in games decided by one run, the fourth best winning percentage in the big leagues. It represents a light in the darkness for all things built backward.

Bullpens are built from the ninth inning forward because late innings usually require the best pitchers. It starts with closer Chris Perez. Manager Terry Francona calls him "an anchor."

"When you have an anchor like Chris Perez at the end, it really makes it easier to build the rest of the bullpen because you have an end point," Francona said. "You always have a place to go."

In front of Perez comes Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. Pestano works the eighth, Smith the seventh. Those three, the past two-plus seasons, have become the backbone of the pen.

"To have a successful bullpen you have to have stability at the back end because then everybody else just fits in," said Perez.

Perez became the Indians' closer when they traded Kerry Wood to the Yankees on July 31, 2010. He has converted 91 percent of his save chances (88 for 97) since.

Pestano would like to close. He did it in college and the minors, but Perez isn't eligible for free agency until the end of the 2014 season so Pestano will continue to pass the baton to Perez.

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