Rookie catcher Carlos Perez a nice surprise for Angels
Carlos Perez has fit into the Angels clubhouse and lineup like a well-worn glove.
He’s integrated himself so well with his teammates and coaches that even MVP Mike Trout has taken a liking to watch him take batting practice.
The 24-year-old rookie oozes confidence calling every pitch, speaking English in every interview and having a gameplan at the plate.
He started his Angels career with a boom, hitting a walkoff home run in the ninth inning in his Major League debut.
He’s batting .286 with two home runs and 10 RBI as the backup catcher. He has hits in 10 of his first 16 Major League games and is handling every pitcher from Jered Weaver to Garrett Richards.
Perez is from Venezuela and spoke precious little English when he came to the U.S. Yet, he doesn’t shy away from the language, whether it’s with his teammates or reporters.
His poise and off the field has been one of the best surprises for the Angels this season.
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) June 2, 2015
"Carlos has worked very hard to get this opportunity," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He’s more experienced than some young players who come to the big leagues because of playing winter ball and playing so long in the minor leagues. He’s very, very confident. I think he understands the challenge and he’s ready for it.
"With that confidence, I think it does give you a certain amount of poise.You can answer questions straight up. You can be accountable. That’s one of the real intriguing things that draws us to Carlos. That’s what you want, playing such an important position as catcher. He has it."
Scioscia, the former Dodgers catcher, knows very well. He’s played the position but didn’t have to battle a language barrier.
Perez, who was part of the Hank Conger trade with Houston, took that on head on. Ever since he came to the U.S. as a teenager playing minor league baseball, he’s watched movies and sports highlights in English.
"The first time I came here, I tried not to panic," Perez said. "I tried to listen to my friends and teammates. Not be afraid to talk and listen."
Listening is good advice in any industry, but especially when learning baseball terminology and communication.
Perez said he would ask when he didn’t understand something. He signed with the Blue Jays as a 17-year-old free agent and played in the minor leagues for seven years, finding his comfort zone in baseball.
— Angels (@Angels) June 2, 2015
"To me, Carlos is a good example of what the (baseball) academies have done in Latin America in building a player," said Jose Mota, an analyst for the Angels Spanish-speaking radio broadcasts and pre and post-game analyst for Fox Sports West. "For a guy who took a little longer than he wanted to get here, you can tell he paid attention to every single detail and every stop. The english for a catcher it’s twice as difficult. If I’m a shortstop, I don’t have to have that day-to-day pitch to pitch comm with the pitcher.
"As a catcher, it’s double duty. In latin America, they learn the baseball lingo and travel to the U.S. and it’s like, ‘oh my God. First to third. Pitchout.’ All these things. Hitting the zone. They have to learn the language in a different setting. It’s remarkable what he did. Seven years in the minor leagues. Always had good numbers. Smart guy. I really admire him."
Perez has become the personal catcher of sorts for Weaver. Weaver is 4-0 in his last five starts, and Perez has been his catcher since May 8, when Weaver started that good stretch against Houston.
It’s not just his catching that has made an impact. He can hit, too, and after making his debut May 5, he’s been part of the reason the Angels have rebounded offensively.
"His approach is awesome," Mike Trout said. "I love watching him take BP. It’s very simple. Just try to stay up the middle and not do too much."
Perez homered on Saturday as part of the Angels home run fest of five home runs in the first two innings against Detroit on Saturday, then used an eighth-inning RBI double to give the Angels an insurance run.
"If you throw him at Triple-A, the World Series or All Star Game, he’d be the same guy," Mota said. "He’s got that mentality."