Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Chris Perez hopes health is on his side in 2014

Chris Perez will be at the center of the Dodger bullpen mix in 2014. ( Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2014)

Chris Perez will be at the center of the Dodger bullpen mix in 2014. (Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2014)

By Jon Weisman

GLENDALE, Ariz – From virtually the beginning of Spring Training a year ago, Chris Perez wasn’t 100 percent physically.

The way he feels now is a bigger change than switching uniforms from Cleveland to Los Angeles.

“I feel great this year,” Perez said today at Camelback Ranch. “This time last year I was already hurt. It’s a lot better being healthy and being able to get my work in and work on stuff, instead of just going into the training room to get ready to go on the field. Compared to last year, I feel a night-and-day difference. It’s encouraging and it’s exciting.”

Perez struggled in 2013 with a strained lat muscle that emerged after only his second bullpen session of the spring. That cascaded into a mixed bag of a year – while his strikeout rate remained strong (54 in 54 innings), his WHIP rose from 1.127 in 2012 to 1.426 in 2013.

Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2014

Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2014

“It’s like racing against the clock – you don’t want to miss any time,” Perez said of dealing with the early injury. “You always seem like you’re behind the 8 ball. You’re trying to get there for your teammates and get there for Opening Day, but at the same itme, you’re not getting all your work in.

“Those bullpens are important, especially for bullpen guys, because during the season, you don’t really get to work on stuff that much, because you have to be ready for the game.”

Perez, who is still only 28 despite being a six-year MLB veteran, added that his mechanics never quite recovered in 2013. But an offseason that allowed him to “rest some aching muscles and reboot mentally” has cleansed the palate, he hopes.

“Once I got healthy in the second half of the year, I went back to my normal arm slot,” he said. “But I had been pitching three of four months from different arm slots. I was in between arm slots, which is tough to do, especially in my role last year as a closer. … This year, coming in healthy, I’m back to my normal arm slot and hopefully it stays there all year.”

In addition to changing jerseys and ideally medical records, Perez’s function is changing as well. Given the presence of Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson, the Dodgers’ plan for Perez involves a great deal of work before the ninth inning or even the eighth. Not that Perez minds.

“I think the fans and the media blow it a little more out of proportion than we do,” he said. “We’re all professionals here. Maybe four or five years ago, when I was a young guy, I kind of paid attention to it a little bit, because you’re trying to make a name for yourself. You’re trying to get to that role. But now it’s just about winning.

“We know who are closer is – it’s Kenley. We know Wilson’s going to be throwing the eighth. So now it’s just me trying to fit in any way I can and help the team. If that’s to come in and get a couple outs in the sixth, so be it. I’ve done that closing role; I’ve done that set-up role. It’s fun – don’t get me wrong – but it’s a lot better when the team’s winning and you can contribute to that.”

Perez also isn’t stressing over being asked to enter a game in the middle of an inning and get the Dodgers out of a jam.

“You have to just be aware of a couple more things – (the) bunt game, steals and stuff like that,” Perez said. “But honestly, early in my career, that’s how I came in, with guys on base. You try to get ahead of the batter early, and you try to get a ground ball. It’s not easy, but if you get a ground ball, you get two outs right away.

“It’s not like I never pitched with men on base before. Last year I had guys on base all the time,” he added with a laugh.


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1 Comment

  1. oldbrooklynfan

    I’m sure there will be times when Jansen will not be closing, like when he appears in like 2 or 3 games in a row. I think the Dodgers will use Wilson, Perez, Guerra or one of the other relievers with closer experience. This should be a great advantage.

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