Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Interview with RHP Tyson Perez

Tyson Perez first caught my eye when Baseball America declared him, as a 17th round pick, to be one of the Astros best later round draft picks from 2011, citing his strong curveball and a fastball that hit 92-94. But I thought I would have to wait to see his sophomore year progress when Perez stayed behind at Extended Spring Training this spring after all of the full season teams broke camp. But the ripple effect of an early injury to Kyle Weiland gave the 22-year old Perez a chance to skip Lexington altogether and go directly to High A Lancaster in May after pitching in rookie league Greeneville in 2011.

What was probably intended to be a temporary move for Perez turned into a permanent one as he came in strong. In his first five starts at Lancaster, he was 3-1 with a 3.90 ERA and a 0.959 WHIP and held batters to a .218 average. He had some ups and downs throughout the season and ended the regular season with a 9-5 record, a 5.03 ERA and a 1.508 WHIP (4-1 with a 3.19 ERA and a 1.022 WHIP away from the hitter-friendly confines of The Hangar). In the post-season, he was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.154 WHIP (the loss being a 1-0 shutout in which he gave up only three hits in seven innings).

I caught up with Tyson by phone last week and here's what he had to say about his 2012 season (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

On his promotion to Lancaster: Going there, it was kind of a big surprise. It just happened real fast. I went there. I didn't know any of the guys so it was kind of hard to get used to. I was surprised, but I got the opportunity and I just tried to make the most of it. I'm just going to try to get better and keep learning from my mistakes.

On his pitch repertoire: Before this year, in college, my best pitch was my curveball and I still think it is, but my cutter for me this year was awesome. I used it a lot. I could command it. The movement was good on it so I really went to that a lot and when I had that pitch and the curveball in the same game, those were the games I went deep and when I had really good success. So if I could just get those two pitches, or actually all my pitches, to be able to throw them whenever I want and have the confidence I do when I do throw them good, I think it will be smooth sailing. My fastball this year was anywhere from 89-94 and my cutter is usually 87 to 90, 91. My curveball is like 76, 79, sometimes 80, and then my changeup's probably low 80's. [I'm working on] the consistency with all the pitches but the pitch that I work on the most would probably be the changeup. That's probably my weakest pitch and it also is the most important pitch in baseball so if I can get a good changeup then I will be a lot better of a pitcher. I'll be a lot more an all-around pitcher.

On his pitching style: I try to pitch to contact. I'm trying to learn to pitch to contact because all of the best do. Some games I don't have a lot of strikeouts. Some games I do. So I'm still trying to find my way. I'm not going to try to blow it by anybody. I'm just going to try to make good pitches and let the hitters get themselves out.

On what he's accomplished this season: I've learned how to pitch. I've learned how to remember what you threw the guy last time, how to recognize what kind of hitter he is, how to read swings, how to read foul balls, all that type of stuff. I learned that. I learned how (I know this sounds silly), but how to throw the ball outside and inside. When you're in high school and when you're in college, you're young. You mainly live outside. I learned that you have to throw inside. You have to make all your pitches and you just have to keep the ball down. I think I just learned how to be a pitcher instead of just a thrower, which is pretty good.

On winning the California League Championship: We were all pumped. We were excited. A lot of people wanted to go home, being out here for so long, being away from home but once we won the last couple of series against High Desert and Inland Empire, we knew that we had a really good shot. Everybody was having a lot of fun. We were hitting the ball. We were pitching the ball great so we knew that we had a really good chance. So once we made the playoffs, everybody was just wanting to stay the whole time. They weren't ready to go home in a week. They were ready to go home after the Championship because we all thought that we were going to get to the Championship and win. We all had that confidence.

On the Lancaster team chemistry: Yeah, we had a lot of fun. This was probably the closest and the most fun I've ever had on a team. You usually don't see that when you're in pro ball because the guys are going up, guys are coming down. In college, you're with the same guys all the time, you have roommates, but we were really, really close as a team. Everybody had fun, everybody got along, and we just went out and played. Every day we had fun. We would joke around the clubhouse, play our games and just have fun every day and I think that's what made us play good and [we] eventually won the whole thing.

On his nickname "Time": One of my coaches when I was little playing football just started calling me T-Time because my name was Tyson and eventually all my friends started calling me that. Then when I was in high school all of my friends just started calling me Time. Like now, when I go home, nobody calls me Tyson. Everybody calls me Time. It just somehow happened and somehow [stuck]. So that's the name that I kind of go by. Some of the guys on the team picked it up [and] would call me Time. That's the name that I put on my glove, too, is Time.

On ranch life: I live on a ranch [in California]. We have horses and steers and I've roped since I was little. It's kind of a different life. I have the sports life and baseball in the City and I have the ranch life where I grew up in the country, rode horses, roped, did rodeo, all that stuff. My dad does rodeo. My dad's part of the PRCA, professional rodeo, and he always told me if I didn't play baseball [I] could make it in that if I wanted to. It's still a hobby. It's something fun to do. I honestly don't get to do it much anymore but I've done it since I was little, kind of like riding a bike. I could always go do it if I want, but it takes a lot of practice.

I had a little dummy steer I had brought from home and me and Rafy Valenzuela, we would rope it because he could rope a little bit when he was at home so I brought this little play toy dummy, like a little fake steer and a couple of ropes and me, him and Johnny Meyer would go out there and mess around roping.

If he couldn't play baseball, would he do rodeo?: I don't know. It's kind of like minor league lifestyle. You've got to travel a lot. You're away from home, but if you're one of the best it's a real good living. You're famous everywhere you go ... tons of fans, big crowds and it's fun. But for a career, it would be a little different. But as a hobby, I love it. I love going to rodeos, all that stuff. It's a lot of fun. It's a different lifestyle.

If he could steal a pitch, whose would it be?: I would want to have Jorge de Leon's fastball and Nick Tropeano's changeup. If I can get my changeup like that, I'll be very happy. That's what I'm trying to do. That's what I'm working hard on.

Which Astros hitter would he least like to face?: I don't know if I'd want to face George Springer because he hit four home runs in a row. When he gets hot, he's really hard to get out. When he hits [home runs] they're for sure goners. He doesn't hit much of any cheap ones.

Who on the team made you laugh?: Kiké Hernandez is one of the funniest guys ... funniest, silliest, goofiest and he was my roommate so I got it all the time. But he was really fun to be around. Everybody loves him.

On the Astros' future: The future is bright. Our minor league system was awesome this year. We had three teams make it to the playoffs and we had a team win a championship. And we have a lot of young talent. We have a lot of guys that we traded for. The next four or five years all this talent is going to be up there [in Houston]. As long as we keep doing what we're supposed to do as a farm system and we keep getting better and working hard, eventually the Astros are going to turn around. The big league team is going to be the winning team. We have to wait. We're young. I know that we can just get better and better.

Any final words?: If I keep working hard and doing what I'm supposed to do, then it should all pay off.

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If the California League Finals had gone to a Game 4, Tyson Perez would have gotten the call. And there wasn't a single player on his team that doubted he would have led them to a win. Going from rookie ball one season to being an integral part of a High A Championship team the next season? Not bad, not bad at all.

Thanks for your time, Time, and best of luck in the 2013 season.

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