GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - Turns out, Indians closer Chris Perez made the AL All-Star team last year with a sore arm.
Now, Cleveland starters Derek Lowe and David Huff are ailing.
Perez, sidelined since February by a strained left oblique, pitched a perfect inning in his spring debut but the Colorado Rockies beat an Indians split squad 6-3 Thursday. After his sharp outing, Perez revealed for the first time that he got hurt last spring.
Troy Tulowitzki had three hits, Chris Nelson a two-run double and starter Juan Nicasio hit 97 mph on the radar gun for Colorado.
Lowe allowed two runs over three innings. Manager Manny Acta said the 38-year-old left with back spasms.
``This is not the time to mess around,' Acta said. ``We could have kept him out there. We'll check him out. He's got one more (spring) start.'
Huff, competing for the final rotation spot, strained his right hamstring and left one batter into a 5-4 split-squad loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Cleveland has lost eight straight and 12 of 14.
``It's a sad day,' Acta said. ``We just got eliminated from the second wild card spot in spring training. Maybe next year.'
Though concerned with Lowe and Huff, the manager was upbeat after seeing Perez throw hard, even for only five pitches.
``I guess the scouting report is to swing early on me,' Perez said. ``The good thing is I threw strikes and had a good slider.'
Perez said he was reluctant to use his slider in 2011 because if he missed and fell behind in the count, he didn't have his best fastball available to get a strikeout. Though he had 36 saves, his strikeouts tumbled from 61 in 2010 to 39.
``Without a doubt, I feel better at this point than a year ago,' Perez said. ``I got hurt the second week in, throwing a changeup. Haven't thrown one since.'
Perez has renewed confidence in his fastball.
``I think I can blow it by them,' he said. ``I'm going all out, 100 percent.'
The right-hander is due to pitch again Saturday and Monday.
Nicasio, back from a broken neck sustained when he was hit in the head by a line drive in August, allowed two runs and four hits over 5 2-3 innings, striking out six.
``I felt great, this was my best start of the spring,' Nicasio said. ``My changeup and slider were very good. This was the first time all my pitches were working.'
Nicasio said his goal is to develop into a dominant starter like Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens.
``I have a good fastball,' he said. ``They had the fastball, the slider, the changeup. All great pitches. I have worked hard to come back. Now I have to keep working. I think I can be a good pitcher.'
Michael Brantley and minor leaguer Beau Mills hit solo homers off Nicasio.
``Both were off the same pitch,' Nicasio said. ``A fastball up and in.'
Mills, a first-round pick in 2007 who has yet to break into the majors, also went deep in the ninth off Josh Outman.
``A great day for Beau Mills,' Acta said. ``One guy (Russ Canzler) goes home to be with his wife giving birth and the other guy steps up.'
NOTES: Indians CF Grady Sizemore has returned to Cleveland to continue rehab from back surgery. GM Chris Antonetti said Sizemore is ``on track', but there is no timetable as to when the former All-Star will resume baseball activities. ... Catcher Wilin Rosario went 2 for 5 as the DH and is hitting .462 overall. ... Minor league CF Mike Mitchell of the Rockies made a diving, sprawling catch to rob Travis Hafner of a hit.
The Associated Press News Service
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