There’s something special about homegrown talent. Even more special is the young player who gets a shot with the team he followed growing up. Giants fans have heard the big names; Barry Bonds, Randy Winn, and the latest local boy Kevin Frandsen have made news as Giants who originated in the Bay Area. Add one more name to that listup and coming San Jose Giants pitcher Nick Pereira has what it takes to make an impression at the big league level, with his hot 4-0 start. He also has the right stuff to leave an impression on the hearts and minds of Giants fans.
Pereira got his start in the South Bay, pitching for Cupertino High School. He moved onto De Anza College and then to the University of San Francisco. He’s lucky to have spent his career near the places and people he loves. He cites the support of friends and family as helpful, to have “thirty people in the stands at every game you’re pitching makes you feel good about yourself,” he said.
As for growing up a Giants fan, Pereira feels special to play in the Giants organization. “I grew up watching Chili Davis and Kevin Mitchell, who I looked up to as a little kid. Then you get a chance to wear orange and black, and it kind of makes you feel that much prouder of what you’ve accomplished so far,” he said.
He’s a candid and honest young man. He credits his college coaches with much of his success. His coach at De Anza switched him from shortstop to pitcher in his freshman year, and Pereira cites his coach who suggested the switch as “why he’s here right now.”
In his second year at the school, Pereira suffered a blown knee, and USF offered him a scholarship without seeing him throw an inning. “I felt I owed that back to them as far as going there,” he said, when asked about choosing USF over other more prominent baseball schools in the area such as Stanford or Cal.
Pereira’s success at USF came as both a starter and a reliever. 2004 he worked mostly in relief, with 23 appearances and two starts, and 2005 he started in sixteen games. That year he went 10-3 and pitched three complete games, and won the Jesse Foppert award as the Dons’ top pitcher. Both seasons his ERA never went over 3.00.
The Giants selected him in the 10th round of the 2005 amateur draft, making him the second Don to join the organization since Foppert was drafted in 2001. Pereira enjoys the honor of being compared to another outstanding USF pitcher and Giants draftee, even if Foppert is no longer with the organization.
Many former and current big league Giants have passed through Salem-Keizer; the aforementioned Foppert, Jerome Williams, Noah Lowry are just a few. Pereira played in the short-season league as a Volcano in 2005, splitting time between reliever and starter. “It was a good experience for my first professional league,” he said. “The shorter season wasn’t quite as long after the college season. They had us in limited inning roles, so we didn’t blow out our arms.”
The relaxed yet competitive atmosphere helped Pereira prepare for life in pro ball, and his 5-3 record and ERA of 3.04 in 14 games in the Northwest League showed he was ready for something bigger.
The San Jose Giants are an exciting team, and Pereira’s addition to the staff has continued the buzz from last season’s championship run. If the 4-0 start wasn’t impressive enough, look at his earned run average: in five starts, it barely registers as believable at 0.90.
This year Pereira gets a chance to start exclusively in San Jose, one would think when looking at those numbers, and he has embraced the challenge at his new level. “I consider myself a starter right now,” he said. “Of course that can change, the higher you go. You have to do what they want you to do. As long as I get some innings and get a chance to do something I’ll be happy.”
Pereira’s raw talent on the mound is evident in what he has accomplished in his short career. At all levels of competition since USF, Pereira’s strikeouts to walks ratio is 3:1, and in the early going of the 2006 season, he has 31 strikeouts to only five walks.
Armed with a fastball and a slider“my strikeout pitch,” he called itand working with a new changeup, developed at the start of spring training, Pereira has a handle on the tools he will use for the rest of his career. “The change-up is coming along a lot better than I expected,” he said. “It’s still a new pitch for me, but the feeling is coming along pretty quick, and I’m actually pretty comfortable throwing it in counts where I am behind the hitters, which is a big thing for me now.”
Working to improve the location of his change-up is a goal for the season, “locating it in better counts, maybe even using it as a first pitch.”
Pereira’s game goes beyond the statistics and what’s in his repertoire. He goes beyond the physical demands of the game when talking about the mental aspect of pitching. “In my first year as a pitcher at De Anza, I could feel my mentality switch from a position player to a pitcher when I got the itch as far as what the mound presence was,” he said. “It was the whole understanding as far as how to switch it on and how to pitch in certain situations. That’s what’s helped me so far the most.”
In a profession where pressure runs high, especially every fifth day, he takes time to relax, because winding down from a game is as important as getting up for a game. Pereira values yoga and meditation techniques for relaxation and balance, and plugs into his iPod “pretty much as soon as I wake up, until I take the mound.” What’s on the playlist? “Country,” he insists.
Nick Pereira has a lot to look forward to, as he progresses through his career. Giants fans have a lot to look forward to as well, if they’re following this kid. In only his third year as a pitcher, he’s dominating a tough California League, known as the second strongest hitter’s league in the minors. He has baseball sensibility and the makeup of a guy who can do well in the sport. The Giants’ future looks bright as long as they have pitchers like Pereira.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 23rd season of fandom and first where she's had the honor to write for the Giants on SFDugout.com. Love/hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
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