The southpaw started off winless through much of the first three months of this past season at Daytona and began the year from the bullpen before making 18 consecutive appearances as a starter beginning in late May. (Perez had spent the past three years as a starter with the Orioles.)
Despite a rough conclusion to the season in his final five starts (16 earned runs in 21 innings), Perez got into a groove after joining the rotation. From late May through early August, he posted a 3.38 ERA in 13 starts after allowing 14 runs in his first eight appearances from the bullpen.
Pratt pinpoints the reason behind Perez's turnaround.
"He settled down," the coach observed. "Early in the year, he tried to do too much as some pitchers do when they get traded or acquired by another team. He put a lot of pressure on himself early."
That pressure seemed evident in Perez's results early on, as he issued equally as many walks as strikeouts. In his first month with the team, he handed out 11 free passes in just 8 2/3 innings while striking out 11.
"When he started to settle down, he started to change pitches and speeds, and looked a little more under control," Pratt said. "Basically, he'd been our most consistent pitcher in the second half. He was always giving us six innings and only one or two runs."
Perez features a low-90s fastball, slider and changeup in his repertoire. He won a career-high 11 games for Class A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League in 2005, and entered '06 a career 25-27 pitcher with a 3.70 ERA in 420-plus innings.
This year, Daytona pitching ranked near the bottom of the Florida State League in ERA with a 4.03 mark. (Only Vero Beach's 4.44 clip was higher.)
And with such starters as Grant Johnson, Mark Holliman and Justin Berg struggling with the High-A club in 2006, only left-hander Donald Veal appears a shoe-in to start next year no lower than Double-A.
With a good spring in 2007, Perez could be one of the many competing for a job next season at Tennessee.
"He's really under control and can touch 92 to 94 at times," Pratt said of Perez. "He's starting to be more of a pitcher than just a hard thrower."