CLEVELAND -- Shin-Soo Choo stepped out of character on Opening Day on Thursday, rushing to his feet and threatening to charge the mound after Blue Jays reliever Luis Perez threw a pitch in the vicinity of the right fielder's head.
As Choo began walking angrily toward the mound in the 15th inning of the marathon affair at Progressive Field, both benches and bullpens emptied for a few tension-filled minutes. In the wake of Cleveland's 7-4 loss in 16 frames, Choo admitted his reaction stemmed from an unrelated incident last year.
"I had a hit by pitch last year -- a broken thumb," Choo explained. "Maybe that's the reason why I'm very sensitive right now, but it's part of the game. Pitchers need to throw inside. I understand that."
Choo had his left thumb broken by an errant pitch from former Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez, now with the Royals, on June 24 last season, costing the Indians right fielder roughly six weeks on the disabled list. Cleveland manager Manny Acta noted that Choo was brushed back a few times during this past Spring Training and the right fielder had been hit by a pitch earlier in Thursday's contest.
Acta said the Indians are not overly concerned about Choo possibly overreacting to inside pitches.
"Not at all," Acta said. "He's a tough kid. We talked to him already about that kind of stuff. People know that he can take you out to the opposite field. A lot of people are going to pitch him inside. He's going to have to live with it. He understands that. It's understandable that he's a little bit sensitive.
"He lost a lot of time last year and it was a crucial time for us, the way we were playing. He really takes pride in being on the field every day for us. I think it just goes back to what happened last year with him. He got a few of them in Spring Training, too. It's understandable
"He also knows how important he is to us. That's why he stopped and handled things well."
Perez unable to weather storm in opener
CLEVELAND -- Opening Day was not kind to closers. Indians stopper Chris Perez was one of three All-Star closers to suffer a blown save in their team's first game of the season, joining Detroit's Jose Valverde and New York's Mariano Rivera.
"They're human. It's going to happen," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It could've been in July, but it happened on Opening Day. He's going to have a few of those. Every one of them has them."
In the ninth inning of Thursday's 7-4, 16-inning Opening Day loss to the Blue Jays -- the longest season opener in baseball history -- Perez blew a save by allowing three runs on three hits with a pair of walks. That effectively erased a three-run lead for the Tribe and sent the contest into extra innings.
During his appearance, Perez also averaged 90 mph on his fastball and topped out at only 92 mph. Last season, when he saved 36 games in 40 chances and made the All-Star team for the Indians, Perez averaged 93.4 mph with his heater. Acta said the diminished velocity had more to do with the weather conditions than anything else.
"I don't think people are doing the right research when they're talking about that," Acta said of Perez's pitch speed. "Everybody wasn't throwing hard that day. It was too cold. Chris, actually, was the second-hardest thrower on our staff behind [Justin] Masterson that night.
"Vinnie Pestano averaged 89 mph that day, but he got people out, so no one says anything. It was too cold. ... It's expected in those type of conditions on the first day of the season. In Spring Training, [Perez] was hitting 95, so he's OK.
"Sometimes I guess it'd be a nice test to get somebody out of their coat and put them on the middle of the field in the 40-degree weather to try to throw 95 mph so they can see."
Quote to note
"Overall, as a team, I was encouraged. We had a lot of good at-bats [on Opening Day]. It's too bad that people think good at-bats are just when you get a hit. We had 11 walks. You don't just stand at the plate and get four balls straight at the Major League level and walk. We had a lot of good at-bats. Unfortunately, at the key moments, we didn't have them." -- Indians manager Manny Acta, on the offense
Indians starter Justin Masterson joined a short list of standout performers with his Opening Day effort on Thursday. The sinkerballer became only the fourth pitcher in Tribe history (joining Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Sonny Siebert) to log at least eight innings with two hits or fewer allowed and one run or fewer surrendered in a season opener. Siebert was the last to accomplish the feat on April 10, 1968.
On Opening Day on Thursday, manager Manny Acta replaced left fielder Shelley Duncan with Aaron Cunningham in the seventh inning, when the Indians held a 4-1 lead over Toronto. Acta said that type of strategy may come into play late in games this season. "He's a batter defensive outfielder," Acta said. "We'll try to put our best defensive team out there when we had a lead."
Indians left-hander David Huff, who is on the 15-day disabled list due to a right hamstring strain, has initiated a throwing program. According to the team, the pitcher's hamstring injury is resolved. As things currently stand, Huff projects to join Triple-A Columbus when he is deemed healthy.
Minor League outfielder Thomas Neal, who was sent outright to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday, was subsequently demoted to Double-A Akron on Friday. Right-hander Henricus van den Hurk declined an outright assignment to Triple-A on Friday and elected to become a free agent.