Perry continues to impress Leyland
Tigers' '08 first-round Draft pick aggressively going after hitters
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After the Tigers' bullpen gave up three runs in the final two innings Friday against the Braves, manager Jim Leyland said it was time for players to step up.
On Saturday, he got another good look at Ryan Perry.
Perry isn't a big talker, and he won't presume anything, other than to say he figured coming in that Detroit "might have a couple spots."
When asked if the felt prepared to take one and pitch in the big leagues, though, Perry didn't hesitate.
"If they think I can fill that spot, yes, I do," Perry said.
If they didn't, the Tigers wouldn't have him around with just over a week to go before Opening Day. Instead of preparing to close at Double-A Erie by working at Minor League camp, he's not only with the big club, but getting big opportunities. He also has a roster picture that seemingly works in his favor.
The pitches Perry threw Saturday backed up that belief.
The Tigers didn't insert Perry into the middle of a jam, like they did in other outings, but he quickly found himself in one. A seeing-eye ground ball through the left side, followed an infield error, put two runners on with nobody out instead of nobody on and two outs. With the wind gusting at Dunedin Stadium, any fly ball was an adventure.
Not only did Perry retire the side in order from there, he did it with minimal contact. In the process, he showed some of the pitching mix that continues to defy his age.
Jays Minor Leaguer Shawn Shoffit stepped up looking to advance the runners, and ended up looking at a fastball on the corner for a called third strike. Veteran Kevin Millar followed and fell into a 1-2 count before grounding out to short.
"Throw strikes, that's all I wanted to do," said Perry, who had walked five batters over his previous three games.
With two outs, utilityman Jose Bautista was the Jays' last hope to make this into a rally. Perry, expecting Bautista to gear up for the fastballs he had seen against the previous two batters, threw a first-pitch slider in for a strike. Then, he threw another.
"That's definitely the best I've located it so far," Perry said of his slider.
Just when Bautista might be able to time it, Perry went back to the fastball and challenged him with it. Bautista had no time to react, and the called third strike ended the jam.
"Today, he did what we talked about," Leyland said. "He also threw some nasty sliders. That's electric stuff. We all know that."
Having that is one thing. The ability to execute it in pressure situations is another. Even in the final week of Spring Training with roster decisions looming, it's still Spring Training, not the on-field intensity that Perry might face at the Rogers Centre on Opening Night. Still, his ability to get out of these jams with few signs of stress aren't going unnoticed.
"Non-shakeability," Leyland called it. Perry basically called it the power of a deep breath.
Perry's seemingly just as hard to rattle off the field as the Spring Training days dwindle.
With Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodney and Bobby Seay seemingly set in Detroit's bullpen -- and Zach Miner all but that if he doesn't begin the season in the rotation -- one of the fascinating aspects of the few remaining spots and their contestants is that Perry not only is the least experienced, but by a huge margin.
Fellow non-roster invitees Juan Rincon and Scott Williamson are both on the other side of 30, and have just over six and just under nine years of Major League experience, respectively. Eddie Bonine is just 27, but earned his shot at the big leagues with 180 Minor League appearances over the past six years. Clay Rapada, 28, made 25 appearances for Detroit last year and has 49 saves in the Minors. Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis have more than 1,000 Major League innings apiece. Kyle Bloom is a Rule 5 Draft pick at age 26.
All but Bonine and Bloom were in a Major League camp last year. Perry was still at the University of Arizona. His professional experience consists of 12 appearances at Class A Lakeland and a couple in the Gulf Coast League last year. But Perry isn't showing it. Instead, he's stepping up.
"I think he and [starter Rick] Porcello both came in to make the team," Leyland said. "That's what I believe. Are they going to make it? That's a different story. But I like that a lot. That's very impressive, an impressive characteristic for me."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.