Chris Perez: I was playing Independent ball in the Frontier League and got the invitation to the tryout. I went to the Chicago tryout and it was all the east coast guys. It was raining the first day so it was rough for everyone to be seen. So none of the pitchers threw that first day. The second day was the same thing. It was cold but they let the pitchers throw off the mound to see what we have. I just got out there and let it fly.
After that, about ten of us they told to go to Arizona for a second tryout so they can get a better look. I bought a plane ticket and went down to Arizona. I had a real good day that first day and I signed so it was pretty good.
How was that second day in Arizona?
Chris Perez: For me it wasn't as great. I have been a starter – I have only been pitching since college so I have never thrown back-to-back days like that with max power like that. I was overthrowing. Now that I am back home I know the adjustments I could have made on the mound but I figured that is what they wanted to see – velocity and just let it go.
Talk about the background. We know you went to NYIT but how did it come about that you started to play baseball in college?
Chris Perez: I moved a lot as a kid. Basically if I didn't move to where I am now in King's Park I probably would be still playing baseball. I met a couple of guys who brought me to a clinic with Frank Catalanotto of the Blue Jays – I took ground balls with them. I took a few pitching lessons with Paul Gibson, an ex-major leaguer. He said I had a pretty good arm. I did well in my senior year in high school and got a full scholarship to tech from that. I did the five-year program at Tech. This year, I won Independent Pitcher of the Year, went 9-2, had 90 strikeouts in 80 innings. I did pretty well.
Was there any expectations that you were going to get drafted?
Chris Perez: Yes. I felt like, ‘Wow, I really do have a shot.' I was supposed to get picked in my junior year but I had some arm problems. The MRI came back negative. I came back and didn't motivate myself that junior year like I should have to take the extra steps. Halfway through the season I started picking it up. Over this last summer I really got back into it and focused on what I could do my senior year and finished up as best I could.
Then you went to Kalamazoo and got released?
Chris Perez: Yes. Back in college there was a lot of leniency with me. They knew how I am on the mound – I give 100 percent and am a thrower. I am trying to get that image away from me but it can also help me. I went down there and they expected me to do what I did in college. The competition – I wasn't intimidated at all. I threw 38 innings and had 38 strikeouts. I threw two gems in a row, a two-hitter through six with eight strikeouts and a three-hitter through five with eight strikeouts. I had pretty good performances. The manager came out to me and said I had to stop trying to strike everyone out. I really got it into my head that I had to try and spot up and my next two games were an absolute mess. I couldn't get one over the plate – absolutely terrible.
You are a little raw since you only started pitching in college. Are there some mechanical things you are going to need to change to be successful?
Chris Perez: I am taking the biggest steps possible – I am working with a place called ‘Acceleration' where Catalanotto is and Double-A guys and it is a program of all minor league players. My mechanics aren't 100 percent but I know what I need to do. I will throw any pitch at any time but I feel I have to stay taller. I understand it but I have to do it.
Talk about your repertoire. I know it is fastball, slider, changeup but what speeds and what is your take on them?
Chris Perez: I feel I am most effective around 88-92. At 92 I am able to control it more. There are times when I can ring it up there. There are times when I feel untouchable. When it comes to my slider or slurve – Bill Bryk didn't want me to call it a slurve – but I throw it as hard as I can and it breaks off the table. I am working with the changeup. I haven't really thrown it much at all but was successful with it in Kalamazoo. I feel like that could be a go-to pitch and I can save my K pitch.
And getting released was a wakeup call?
After getting released from Kalamazoo – I am not letting that happen again. When I get down there, there will be major changes. I am going to give 100 percent and really feel like I have a good shot.
What is a major change for you?
Chris Perez: Just growing up. I want to get my mind clear from everything I have been in. I am not letting anything hold me back anymore.
I feel better about myself and am doing well.
I understand you know Chris Rojas, a former Padres' farmhand.
Chris Perez: Actually, there a bunch of guys who take good care of each other. Chris is working out at the same place as me. They are expecting to put a few more MPHs on the fastball and get me in tiptop shape for spring.
Looking ahead – you mentioned you have always been a starter – where do you see yourself fitting in?
Chris Perez: It doesn't even matter. If I come out as a reliever I know I can do as well as a reliever as a starter. That was the thing in Kalamazoo – he never let me get out of my own situations like I did in college. If I had a guy at second he would take me out of the game.
You didn't allow a homer either at NYIT.
Chris Perez: I don't get hit hard. I don't allow that. Once I get ahead in the count, and I know this guy can't hit me, it is either a strikeout or I make them look silly.