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Indians cut ties with former closer Perez

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have released controversial closer Chris Perez and re-signed veteran slugger Jason Giambi.

A two-time All-Star, Perez wore out his welcome in Cleveland. He lost his job in the final week of the season as the Indians were trying to clinch a wild-card berth. It capped another tumultuous year for the right-hander, who was arrested in June after drug agents followed a package containing marijuana to his home. He and his wife pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

Perez always seemed to be at the center of something. He angered Indians fans for saying they didn't support the team and he rankled Cleveland's front office when he said it wasn't spending enough to win.

Perez, who was eligible for salary arbitration this winter, recorded 25 saves this past season. He had 124 in five seasons with the Indians, who acquired him in a 2009 trade from St. Louis.

But Perez's saves were rarely routine as he often put runners on base to make things difficult, raising the blood pressure of Cleveland fans and managers.

After he gave up four runs in the ninth inning of a win over Minnesota late in the season, Perez walked into manager Terry Francona's office and told him he didn't want to cost the team a possible playoff berth. Francona promptly pulled him from the closer's role, and there was speculation Perez would be left off the postseason roster.

However, Perez was one of 25 players on the roster for the wild-card loss to Tampa Bay.

Giambi provided leadership to the Indians from the moment he arrived at training camp last spring.

The 42-year-old, who was a finalist for Colorado's managerial job last year, was signed to a minor league contract but it didn't take him long to have a major impact in Cleveland's clubhouse and he contributed some memorable moments on the field.

He twice became the oldest player in major league history to hit a walk-off home run. He broke the record set by Hank Aaron on July 29 against Chicago and then bettered his own mark on Sept. 24 with a two-run, pinch-hit homer with two outs in the ninth to beat the White Sox, a shot that helped propel the Indians to a 10-game winning streak to end the season.

Giambi wrapped Francona in a bear hug after crossing the plate, a snapshot of their tight relationship which grew stronger during the season. Franconia felt Giambi was the team's MVP for his many contributions.

"When you get a guy like that, sometimes it can be once in a lifetime," Franconia said of Giambi, whom he has known since he played in the minors. "He's changed people in the organization. He's made me better. He's made everybody he touches better. That's a very special person."

Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti made it clear following the season that wanted Giambi back -- in any capacity he wished.

"We would like to continue our relationship with G," Francona said, "probably as long as he would like to."

Giambi relished his mentoring role last season, when the Indians won 92 games and made the playoffs for the first times since 2007. He feels like he can still be a productive player and the Indians are thrilled to have him back.

Perez was eligible for arbitration, and based on his stats and a $7.3 million contract last season, he was in line for a hefty raise. But Perez's struggles, along with his tempestuous past, resulted in the Indians cutting ties with him on the first day after the World Series ended.

In 54 games, Perez posted a 4.33 ERA and recorded 54 strikeouts in 54 innings. But after Aug. 1, his ERA was 7.52 ERA and he allowing six runs in his final two appearances.

The Indians also made a minor trade with San Diego, acquiring left-hander Colt Hynes from the Padres for cash considerations. The 28-year-old spent the second half of last season with San Diego, posting a 9.00 ERA in 22 relief outings.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

 

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