MESA, Ariz. -- Indians closer Chris Perez never doubted that he would be ready in time for Opening Day. With the season's first game a little more than a week away, it appears he will indeed meet that goal.
Following a pair of successful outings in Minor League games, Perez is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut when Cleveland hosts the Rockies on Thursday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark. The left-oblique injury that sidelined the closer early in camp has not caused any lingering issues over the last five weeks.
"He's right on schedule to be ready for Opening Day, unless he has a setback," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We're going on him. He's feeling good. Our medical staff is on board. His velocity was fine the other day, so we'll go on him outing by outing. But right now, he's on schedule to be ready for Opening Day."
Perez injured his side while working through his first bullpen session of the spring on Feb. 23. He resumed pitching off a mound on March 16 and has since advanced through live batting practice sessions and Minor League games.
The closer said on Wednesday that he has not felt any discomfort in his side since that first mound session.
That being the case, the Indians are expecting their Opening Day bullpen to include Perez, who saved 36 games in 40 chances last year and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team. If Perez were to suffer a setback, Acta has noted that setup man Vinnie Pestano would act as the temporary closer.
Hafner's health more encouraging than stats
MESA, Ariz. -- The Indians like what they have seen from designated hitter Travis Hafner this spring. He has displayed a quick swing and the results have followed, but what pleases manager Manny Acta the most is Hafner's clean bill of health.
"He's healthier right now," Acta said on Wednesday. "He has no limitations whatsoever. We haven't had any schedule dropped in our office about usage or anything. He's as good as he's been in three years, health-wise."
Under the circumstances, Cleveland plans on using the 34-year-old Hafner -- entering the final guaranteed season of his four-year contract -- as its everyday designated hitter. When Hafner does get a day off, it will likely come against a left-handed pitcher. Catcher Carlos Santana could serve as the DH for those games.
Acta made it clear, however, that Hafner is not in a platoon situation for the DH role.
"Not right now," Acta said. "But, ideally, the day he sits should be against a left-handed pitcher, because that's what the stats show."
Over the past four seasons, Hafner has hit just .237 against left-handed pitching compared to .274 against right-handers. Last year, Hafner hit .280 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs in 94 games overall, but he managed only a .233 average against southpaws.
Acta said he will determine Hafner's playing time on a day-to-day basis.
"It's a game by game type of thing," Acta explained. "We don't have it mapped out how many times Santana is going to DH or anything. Santana is our everyday catcher."
Acta noted that he is encouraged by how Hafner has looked at the plate and felt off the field throughout this spring. Hafner was limited last season by right-oblique and right-foot injuries, and was slowed by an ongoing right-shoulder problem in the previous three years. Over the past four years, Hafner has averaged only 91 games after playing in 140 on average from 2004-07.
"If he's healthy, he's going to be productive," Acta said. "If he's not healthy, obviously, we're going to miss him. That's what he is. I haven't had any issues with him once he's been on the field in three years."
Guzman released, Lewis reassigned
MESA, Ariz. -- Cristian Guzman and Fred Lewis would have had a hard time cracking the Indians' Opening Day roster under normal circumstances, but injuries late in camp essentially eliminated them from the Indians' spring competitions.
On Wednesday, Cleveland released Guzman and reassigned Lewis to Minor League camp, trimming the roster down to 41 players with less than a week left before the team departs Arizona. Guzman is dealing with a right hamstring injury and Lewis only recently returned from a right-elbow issue.
"It's very hard when you come into camp to make a club and you're hurt over the last 10-15 days of Spring Training," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That's a crucial time. Unfortunately, it happened to them. Both were pros. Those guys came in here and they knew what they had up against them."
Guzman, 34, was vying for a chance to earn a spot on the Indians' bench as a utility infielder. After missing all of last season due to a right-shoulder injury, Guzman signed a Minor League contract with the Tribe and hit .217 in 10 Cactus League games this spring. He exited Friday's game due to the hamstring injury and plans on rehabbing in the Dominican Republic for now.
The 31-year-old Lewis, who hit .230 in 81 games for the Reds last year, entered camp as a non-roster invitee competing for a chance to earn either the starting left field job or a reserve role off the bench. He hit just .200 in nine Cactus League games and missed another nine due to tendinitis in his throwing elbow.
"It was very frustrating, as far as the timing of it," Lewis said of his injury. "But, I don't think that had a part of it."
While Lewis has technically been re-assigned to the Minors, the Indians have given him the option to request to be released. That said, Acta was not sure whether Cleveland would have the ability to keep Lewis in the fold at Triple-A Columbus.
"We gave him the option," Acta said. "But I don't know if we do have room in Triple-A."
Quote to note
"We continue to explore things. [General manager Chris Antonetti] and the front office are talking to other clubs and trying to make the club better." -- Indians manager Manny Acta, on possibly upgrading the roster through trades.
• Indians center fielder Michael Brantley, who returned to the lineup on Tuesday after sitting out for a week with a right-hamstring injury, was given the day off on Wednesday. Manager Manny Acta said the current plan is for Brantley to play seven innings in one of the Tribe's split-squad games on Thursday.
• The Indians currently have 41 players in camp, but that number should be significantly reduced on Friday. Cleveland has kept a high volume of players in the fold to better handle Thursday's split-squad games against the Rockies and D-backs. The Tribe still needs to announce its left fielder and fifth starter, along with its picks for two bullpen jobs and three bench roles.
• The Indians want to watch Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Kevin Slowey each pitch once more before announcing their choice as the fifth starter. Huff is slated to start against the D-backs on Thursday and Gomez is down to pitch against the Reds on Friday. Cleveland has not yet announced when Slowey's next outing will take place.
• The following players were released from Minor League camp on Wednesday: right-handers Josh McKeon, Will Krasne, Nick Sarianides and Drew Rucinski; infielders Chase Burnette and Chin-lung Hu; and outfielder Brian Heere.