Chris Perez signed by the Padres

One of several players to take the journey from a rainy Chicago tryout to the San Diego Padres complex in Peoria, Arizona, would eventually be rewarded, right-hander Chris Perez.

While Independent League coordinator Mal Fitchman will officially move on at the end of this month, the Padres used his eye for talent evaluations as a part of the haul.

"He is a guy that is interesting," said Fichman. "He threw well in Chicago and came down to Arizona and threw well the first day. He threw the next day and tried to overthrow. He didn't throw well the second day. Instead of throwing 92 he was trying to throw 192."

The Padres saw enough talent in Chris Perez to sign him to a minor league contract.

Perez, a former New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) starter, only truly started pitching in college and has elevated his game by working out with other minor leaguers in New York.

Ironically, the Kalamazoo Kings released Perez early in the year after pitching in nine games for the Frontier League team, going 2-2 with a 5.92 ERA. In 38 innings he allowed 34 hits, walked 23 and struck out 38. He also hit seven batters while holding the opposition to a .239 batting average against. They had asked him to be a different pitcher than he was.

"His fastball, when he threw for us, he topped out at 93 which we had as a 55 and is an above average major league fastball – projected to a 60," Fichman explained. His curveball – 40 – below average. Change of pace 45 with a projection to a 50 or 55. He has an idea how to throw it and just needs to work on it. A good arm, and an excellent pitchers body. He threw 91, 92 easily, with an easy motion and no max effort."

"He probably threw harder than anyone and might be the crudest," Bill Bryk, the Padres' minor league field coordinator, explained. "He was up to 93 with a hard breaking ball. He has some potential with good size. He needs some refining but has a good arm.

"It is mechanics. From where he has come from – the east – you don't get as much coaching. I like his potential. A tweak here or a tweak there and good coaching, guys improve if they have good makeup or a good attitude."

Perez earned Division I Independent Baseball Pitcher of the Year Honors in 2006, tying the NYIT record for wins a season with 10 victories. He finished the season with a 10-2 mark and a 3.21 ERA. In 81.1 innings he allowed 64 hits, walked 39 and struck out 90. The opposition hit .217 off him and he did not surrender a homer.

"He went to NYIT, which is the same place that Chris Rojas came from and he played for us," said Fichman. "He just blew everyone away. He was a fifth year senior that never got drafted and didn't have to be drafted."

Early projections have Perez, a Cuban-American, competing for a bullpen spot when he arrives to spring training in 2007.

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