Alex Periard may not make sweet music with his friends, but he'll soon be on the road again—an approximately 2,600-mile, 40-hour drive with his fiancée from his home in Montreal to spring training camp in Arizona.
The French Canadian right-hander doesn't mind as long as the journey eventually leads to the big leagues and Milwaukee. After all, he already has called the desert Southwest, West Virginia, Brevard County and Huntsville home since being the Brewers' 16th-round pick in 2004, shortly before his 17th birthday.
Periard, a 6-1, 210-pounder, is likely to open the upcoming season with the Double-A Stars, with whom he made eight appearances, all starts, after spending most of 2008 at Brevard County.
And that's OK with Periard, who said the main goals are to keep learning about the art of pitching and fine-tuning his offerings.
"I was surprised to be put on the 40-man roster because I didn't really even know it was my year," Periard said of the Brewers protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. "I'd definitely like to start out in Double-A, but I'm just trying to take things one step at a time because I don't have any control over any of that other stuff. I'm pretty happy with my career up to this point, but it's a matter of working on consistency every day. I don't want to have three good games and then three bad ones."
Periard's overall numbers indicate plenty of ups and downs as he's combined for a 21-19 record and 4.05 earned-run average with 198 strikeouts and 95 walks in 331 innings, but he's shown steady progress and remains one of the organization's top mound prospects.
He finished 9-6 with a 3.51 ERA at Brevard County, striking out 76 Florida State League hitters in 112.2 innings to start the 2008 campaign. That earned him a promotion to the Southern League, where the youngster suffered a rude awakening but learned from it.
"At Brevard I learned that the hitters are more selective than those at West Virginia," he said. "I mean, for example, most guys didn't swing at 2-0 high fastballs."
Then he went 2-4 with a 5.68 ERA with the Stars, stats that may have caused many fans to wonder what happened. However, Periard tried to take the positives from that stint.
"It was a good experience for me because I was facing better hitters and that the toughest jump is from A to Double-A," Periard said. "You can sometimes learn as much from bad experiences. I learned better when to throw certain pitches."
Milwaukee's brass wanted to see how Periard would respond, so they sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where again the statistics were far from sparkling: 0-3 mark and 10.50 ERA in nine outings.
"Not everything is about a low ERA," Periard said. "It was another great experience for me because I got to face a lot of top hitters. I was trying to work on my curveball, which is usually a get-one-over pitch for late in games. I'm working on getting my slider tighter. And I keep working on trying not to do too much."
That attitude and strategy should keep him climbing the ladder, which began when participated in the instructional league in fall 2004. He finished 0-1 with a 5.08 ERA at rookie league Arizona in '05 and improved to 3-1 and 4.64 in the same locale in 2006. Then a full year in the Florida State League in '07 got him headed in the right direction.
"One of the main things I learned in my first year of pro ball was how to prepare before each start," Periard said of a big learning curve after playing with Team Quebec—and under 17 squad—starting at age 14 and joining the Canadian National Team for a year, which is where most scouts discovered him. "I learned quick when I got there that it doesn't matter how hard you throw, the important thing is pitch location.
"My first year was nothing special, but in my second year we worked on my mechanics more and at some point I started figuring things out and it started to click," Periard added. "But at West Virginia is where I really had to learn how to command and throw my secondary pitches for strikes and in what situations to throw my curve and changeup. I learned a lot about the game that summer."
Periard knows he's got a ways to go, but he's come a long way from the 175-pound high schooler who threw basically a four-seam fastball.
"The second year in Arizona I started working on a sinker, getting something with movement that's pretty much become my top pitch," he said. "But I've also developed and improved on the curve, slider and change. I'm trying to get better at everything."