Giants' newest outfielder is winning this arms race
06/19/2013 12:00 AM
06/19/2013 6:27 PM
SAN FRANCISCO – Though it has been a little more than a week since Juan Perez made his major-league debut, Padres second baseman Logan Forsythe said he knew this much about the Giants' newest outfielder before testing Perez's throwing ability in the ninth inning Monday night: "Good arm. Speed."
With one out and Forsythe on first base representing the go-ahead run in a 3-3 game, Chase Headley hit a single to center in front of Perez. Forsythe tried to take third, but Perez delivered a throw on a line to Joaquin Arias, who because of the throw's location was able to catch the ball and drop a tag on Forsythe in one motion.
"The way Chase hit the ball, I thought the grass might check it up a little bit," Forsythe said Tuesday. "At that point in the game, you're trying to make something happen. But he closed on the ball quick and made a perfect throw. Nothing you can really do about it."
For Perez, who pumped his fist after the play, it was the third runner he had thrown out in six games since being called up from Triple-A Fresno on June 7 to replace the injured Angel Pagan. Perez made it four on Tuesday when he threw out Mark Kotsay at home to preserve a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning. Kotsay was trying to score on a single to center. The speedy, athletic 26-year-old also beat out two infield singles Monday night to enter Tuesday's game 7 for 16 at the plate.
Perez, a right-handed hitter, was in the lineup Tuesday against Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner despite the presence of switch hitter Andres Torres. Perez's early impression on the Giants has been such that manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged before the game he wanted to see more of Perez on the field.
"He's a good athlete. He's playing good center field, so we'll try to give him a few at-bats here," Bochy said. "The more he gets, the more comfortable he's going to be. It's fair to say that Andres, he's been struggling. So it's a good time to throw (Perez) out there and see what we have."
What is becoming apparent is the Giants have a player with a knack for outfield assists. Perez recorded 17 assists in 2010 at Advanced-A San Jose, playing right and center field, and 13 last season at Double-A Richmond, which ranked second in the Eastern League.
Perez threw out two runners with Fresno this season before being called up. He also played third base and shortstop but said he's much more comfortable in the outfield, his natural position.
"We can put him out there, and we don't have to worry," said first-base coach Roberto Kelly, who works with the outfielders.
Kelly said he didn't see much of Perez in spring training, so his impression has been formed mostly over the past 10 days.
"We have to let him know positioning because he doesn't know a lot of the hitters," Kelly said. "But every ball that's hit out there, I'm confident enough that if it's in the park he has a chance to catch it. He gives me peace of mind."
As direct as Perez's route was to Headley's ball Monday, his path to the majors has been anything but. Born in the Dominican Republic, Perez was not drafted out of high school and spent two years playing in the amateur La Caribe Baseball League in the Bronx while working for his father's plumbing company. He then played a season of community college ball in Oklahoma in 2008, hitting .465 with 37 home runs, and the Giants drafted him in the 13th round that year.
One player not surprised by Perez's impact so far is Arias, who played winter ball with Perez in the Dominican. Arias said Perez is a "very good player (who) plays very good defense, very good arm."
Arias said his positioning on Monday night's play – slightly in front of third base to avoid having a throw from center hit Forsythe coming into the bag – made Perez's "a perfect throw to make an out."
Perez said he wasn't surprised to see Forsythe trying for third, despite the ball being hit right in front of him, because he was playing deep to take away an extra-base hit. From his time in the minors, he's used to aggressive runners – a big reason for his assist totals.
"Every time I'm playing long toss I make sure I'm working on one-hop (throws), low hop or straight through, stuff like that," Perez said. "I'm always working on that when I play catch so when the game comes, I'll be ready."
The Giants' outfielders regularly work on throwing to bases during batting practice. But Kelly pointed out it helps to have a foundation on which to build.
"You have a lot of guys with strong arms that are not that accurate," Kelly said. "You have a combination of both, then it's a weapon. He knows it. And other teams are learning about it."
Injury updates – With Marco Scutaro (finger) returning to the lineup Tuesday, the rest of the Giants' walking wounded could be following soon.
Pagan (hamstring) ran the bases, and Bochy said he is expected to begin a minor-league rehab assignment this week. Pablo Sandoval is scheduled to DH for San Jose on Friday and, if all goes well, will rejoin the Giants on Monday.
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