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Winnipeg Free Press
Handing Ball To Perez Golden Choice For Goldeyes
By Gary Lawless
26 May 2005
All material copyright Winnipeg Free Press, a division of FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.
Gary Lawless LINCOLN, Neb.. -- It's early to be anointing Alex Perez as saviour of the Winnipeg Goldeyes' 2005 season, but there's no question he's a first-week MVP.
Perez, a 23-year-old left-hander, picked up Winnipeg's first win of the season Tuesday night, spinning an eight-inning dandy that saw the club gain its first win of the season.
Sitting at 0-4 and sending an unknown commodity like Perez to the hill was certainly unsettling for the Fish but the New Jersey native got through a rocky first inning before finding a groove and setting down a potent Lincoln Saltdogs lineup.
Perez allowed three earned runs off seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Winnipeg pitching has been uneven to date and hindered greatly by the loss of four starters (Brad Purcell, Matt Parker, Jeff Sparks and Jason Pilkington) for reasons ranging from injury to desertion.
Sending Perez, scheduled to work as a reliever this season, to the mound as a starter was a lucent decision but Fish pitching coach Rick Forney wasn't feigning brilliance a day later.
"We didn't have a lot of choice. We made the decision in Fargo. He's the only pitcher who threw well in Fargo and looked like he might be able to extend us into the game," admitted Forney.
"We weren't expecting eight innings but thought we might get five or six out of him. What I like best about him is he's a strike thrower. All training camp and including (Tuesday) his first-strike percentage has been high. You don't see a lot of 3-and-2, 3-and-1 counts. He puts the ball in play early. He went eight innings and only threw 102 pitches. He was pretty economical with his pitches."
The heart of Lincoln's order is three fearsome left-handed hitters -- Bryan Warner, Kevin Grijak and Josh Patton. Perez held them to just two hits.
"He took the bats out of their hands. He gave up a couple of singles to the guys in the middle of their order but you're going to give up hits. The key is to keep it to singles and not extra-base hits," said Forney. "If you can keep those guys silent, you've done a great job."
Perez was born in Puerto Rico before moving to New Jersey as a three-year-old. He's an old friend of former Goldeyes infielder Jared Boyd and spent last season in the New York Yankees organization before signing with the Goldeyes this winter.
"I love it in Winnipeg. Great town, great fans and great teammates," said Perez.
"(Tuesday) night was pretty special. I felt great about it. I know I could have done a little better but after I got through the first inning I got my pitches down in the zone and things were OK."
It's hard to find Perez without a smile on his face and he's one of those young men always looking for some fun.
"I'm pretty laid-back. I like to joke around with my teammates. I'm a real clown in the dugout; ask my teammates," said Perez. "I'm real enthusiastic. I'm always the first out of the dugout (to celebrate) when we score a run.
"You can't complain. You come to the baseball field every day, play, have a dinner, go to sleep and come back the next day. It's the best."