Unknown Perez Steps Up

He was one of the least-known of the players the Dodgers assembled for this year's Instructional League. But when the sessions ended Friday, he was one of those talked about the most.

His name is Tommy Perez, he's yet to pitch in an official game in this country and his record compiled in three years in the Dominican Summer League is hardly prepossing. Yet, what he showed late this summer there and in Arizona this fall indicates that he has the ability to move up into the list of quality prospects the Dodgers possess.

He just turned 20 in August and is listed in the media guide at 6-4, 167. They obviously hadn't weighed him recently when that figure was written down for he's close to 200 pounds now with a perfect pitcher's frame. And the balls that come out of his right arm travel fast for he was consistently clocked at 95 mph in the fall camp.

The reason you haven't heard of Perez sooner is that oh-so-typical pitcher's ailment- a balky elbow that required Tommy John surgery. He had to be shut down after only three games in 2005 and it was late June before he got back into action again. In between those outings, he was in the U.S. grinding it out on the rehabilitation route.

Before the injury Perez was a starter. After coming back, he was eased into action, used for no more than two innings at a time. He wound up as a closer for the DSL Dodgers, a losing club, but still managed to chalk up three saves while holding batters to a .152 mark.

Overall, he's a mere 2-7 in his three years down in the DSL but that's been more because they haven't hit for him than any tawdry performances. Opponents managed only a .186 mark against him in 2004, his rookie year and a .250 average in 2005 when his arm was hurting .

He had some minor control problems when he first returned but soon corrected those. He gets the ball over and past most batters. He's logged only 54 innings as a pro- just 13 of those this year- and has chalked up 64 strikeouts in that span.

He's back home in the Dominican now where he will soon resume workouts at Campo Las Palmas. He should healthy and ready to challenge for a spot on a team in this country- possibly at the new outpost in Michigan called the Great Lakes Loons .

Start or relieve? That will be determined in the spring. Whereever they decide to place him, they think he'll make an impression.