Perez Ready For Breakout Season

Chris Perez (1-0, 1.80 ERA) is a righthanded sophomore from Holmes Beach and will be making his second start of the season for the Hurricanes today at 1:00 pm in the series finale against South Florida.

Miami (6-0) has defeated South Florida in the first two games of the series, 11-9 and 7-5. The rotation was thrown off a bit on Friday when the ace of the staff, Cesar Carrillo showed up late to the game. Head coach Jim Morris responded by benching Carrillo and giving Brandon Camardese the emergency start. The rotation has stayed the same with Dan Touchet picking up his first win of the season last night and Carrillo pitched three innings in relief getting a save.

Perez allowed just one run on four hits in five innings while striking out four in his season debut last week against High Point as Miami won the game, 10-1.

"I had a good fastball, curveball, and I was throwing strikes," Perez said. "High Point only won 11 games last year, but they had a lot of transfers come in that were good players."

It was an important start for Perez who was fighting for the third spot in the rotation with senior lefthander Brandon Camardese. Camardese struggled in his start allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings.

"It was a big start for me because it was my first start of the season," Perez said. "I wanted to get the third spot in the rotation."

Perez who was told earlier in the week he will be the team's Sunday starter this season following his stellar performance last week.

Now that he has the role of starting on Sundays he wants to keep it that way.

"I can't let up," Perez said. "I have to keep throwing good games and be consistent out there. I want to give our team a chance to win every time I step on the mound."

FRESHMAN SEASON

Last year as a freshman Perez had a 0-0 record with a 7.71 ERA—highest on the team. He gave up 17 hits and walked 18 batters in 18.2 innings. On a positive note, he struck out 30 batters and had the highest strikeout per nine innings ratio on the team for pitchers who pitched at least 10 innings.

"I don't think that was me out there," Perez said.

It was disappointing for a pitcher who has always been labeled as a guy with great stuff.

"Coming into my freshman year I thought I was going to play a lot more," Perez said. "I just didn't execute. I threw a lot of balls and was not aggressive with the hitters."

College baseball at Miami is a lot different that high school baseball at The Pendleton School. It has been an adjustment for Perez who feels more comfortable this year.

"There wasn't any pressure in high school," Perez said. "You could go out there and have fun and it didn't matter if you won. Here you have to win and people care."

SUMMER OF 2004

Following his freshman season Perez spent his summer in Staunton, Va. playing for the Staunton Braves in the prestigious Valley League. Perez was named the eighth best pro prospect in the league and the fourth best pitcher.

Hurricane teammate Jon Jay also played on the Braves with Perez.

Perez finished the season with a 2-1 record and a 2.36 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 12 walks in 26 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .216 batting average.

"It was a wood bat league which gives a pitcher a little more confidence," Perez said. "Pitchers just have to get the guys out and you just have to make good pitches and get people out. They don't hit bloopers out."

His summer in "The Valley" helped him gain confidence and it carried over into the fall at Miami.

Jay was one of the players that was impressed with Perez's improvement and expects to him to have a breakout season in 2005.

"I think he gained a lot of confidence in the summer," Jay said. "He has great stuff and he just needs the confidence to go along with it. Hopefully he can step it up this year because we really need him. He can be a big X-factor for our team."

A number of guys on the team have talked about Perez's improvement and think he will be a quality player this year. Has he heard the grumblings from his teammates?

"I have heard it from a couple guys that have known me since high school like Eddy Rodriguez and Jon Jay," Perez said. "They have seen what I can do. They kept telling me just to throw strikes and I'll be fine."

PITCHIING STAFF

RHP Cesar Carrillo is the team's ace (1-0, 1.00 ERA) with RHP Dan Touchet (1-0, 6.30) currently in the number two spot. Both players are tough to beat when they are on top of their game.

Ricky Orta, John McLean, and Danny Gil have solidified the bullpen six games into the season. All three players have been very impressive thus far.

"This year I think our pitching staff is a lot better this year," Perez said. "Every time out there we have a chance to throw a shutout. Our offense is young, but hopefully if we hold them to three runs we can still win."

Orta and Gil came in with Perez last year. Orta was 8-0 with a 0.25 ERA in his senior year at Florida Christian. Gil was also a standout in high school finishing his senior season with an 11-1 record and 1.40 ERA at Columbus where he helped lead the team to a state championship.

"We have a lot of good, young talented pitchers," Perez said. "Ricky Orta, Danny Gil, and myself will eat up a lot of innings this year."

Scott Maine is the fourth pitcher in the 2004 freshman class, but had Tommy John surgery that kept him out for the season. He could be back as early as next month.

"Scott Maine is also a good pitcher, but he got hurt. When he comes back he will be good too," Perez said.

Christopher Stock is a Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@canestime.com.

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