Cardinals Caravan pulls into Cape

Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Kaci McClanahan, 8, placed a bat in front of former Cardinals pitcher Alan Benes for an autograph. McClanahan has been collecting Cardinal autographs on the bat for two years.

St. Louis prospects Chris Perez and Bryan Anderson were among the contingent.


Videos from the event at Semoball.com


Relief pitcher Chris Perez handed a baseball back to a fan after he autographed it Monday evening at the Cardinals Caravan at the Osage Community Centre. Perez had 35 saves in the minor leagues last season and is considered by many within the organization as the Cardinals' future closer. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Former St. Louis relief pitcher and current Cardinals television announcer Al Hrabosky says two strong pitches are all a closer needs to have success in the majors.

And from what Hrabosky has seen and has been told, highly rated Cardinals prospect, closer Chris Perez, has two strong ones -- possibly even three.

"I saw Chris pitch one time last spring, and I was very impressed," Hrabosky said. "He's got a definite power arm, and I saw a real nasty slider. And I've been told he's got a real good curveball that the club would like him to throw more."

Both Hrabosky and Perez visited Cape Girardeau on Monday evening as part of the annual Cardinals Caravan stop at the Osage Community Centre.

Hrabosky, the master of ceremonies, and Perez were joined by Cardinals top catching prospect Bryan Anderson, St. Louis pitchers Brad Thompson and Anthony Reyes, and former Cardinals pitcher Alan Benes.

Both Perez and Anderson discussed their futures with the Cardinals organization.

Cardinals prospect catcher Bryan Anderson listens to questions from fans during the Cardinals Caravan on Monday, January 21, 2007 at the Osage Center. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Perez is a candidate to become the club's closer in 2009 if St. Louis does not re-sign Jason Isringhausen, whose contract expires at the end of the 2008 season. But Perez would have to prove himself out of the bullpen at some point this summer.

Anderson's role with the organization is not as clear. Yadier Molina, the Cardinals' starting catcher, signed a four-year deal Monday worth $15.5 million.

Perez, 22, recorded 35 saves while playing for both Class AA Springfield and Class AAA Memphis last summer. He had a 2.43 ERA in 39 appearances at Springfield and a 4.15 ERA in 15 games at Memphis.

Perez is hoping to see time with the Cardinals this summer, but he said his approach to spring training primarily will be to show his ability.

"I don't know how realistic my chances are out of spring training," he said. "Hopefully, I will be up sometime this year. Hopefully sooner than later, but I can't really control that.

"If I do my stuff in spring training, then hopefully I can impress Tony [La Russa] and [Dave] Duncan and some of the front office guys, and maybe if something happens during the season, and they need to bring someone up, I'm fresh in their minds."

Perez, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, attended the University of Miami, where he helped his program to two fifth-place finishes in the College World Series.

He was undrafted out of high school, and he said his college years helped him to mature as a pitcher. It was during that time he learned to throw his slider, which he said some have compared to Brad Lidge's.

"Cardinals fans don't want to hear [the comparison to Lidge]," he said, jokingly, "because of what Albert Pujols did to him, but that kind of slider. ... It's different. Everyone pitches it different because everyone has different arm slots. But it breaks away from righties."

Perez said he's spent most of his life as a closer but did work as a middle reliever during his freshman year of college. He said if the Cardinals put him in a middle relief role this year, it would not force him to change his pitching style and approach.

"I'll take it the same way," he said. "If I come in in the fifth inning, in my mind it is going to be the ninth inning. That's the only way you can really attack it. I don't think it would be that big of a transition."

His fastball, which he calls his best pitch, ranges from 95 to 98 miles per hour. He posted 62 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings last year in Memphis.

"His strikeout numbers in the minor leagues are exceptional, and he doesn't give up many hits," Hrabosky said. "His biggest problem is that he has the tendency to walk a little bit too many. But that's just part of throwing strikes and getting more comfortable, but he's definitely going to be playing in the major leagues."

Perez said he needs to work more to improve his mechanics and consistently be able to repeat his arm slot and delivery.

"The game plan is to have him start at Memphis, be the closer, and then when he comes up to be a guy under the perfect scenario ... to learn the late innings from Izzy," Hrabosky added. "But Izzy also recognizes that he could be a potential replacement for him, too."

Anderson might be further off from the majors than Perez.

He batted .302 with three home runs and 51 RBIs in 109 games for Springfield last summer. He said he hits for average more than power, but he is working to improve his power numbers. Drafted out of high school, he said his goal entering spring training is to make the Memphis club.

When he was interviewed Monday, he had not heard that Molina signed a four-year extension. He said no one in the organization has discussed with him the possibility of moving to another position because of Molina being in front of him on the depth charts, but he is open to a change.

"Whatever gets you to the big leagues," he said. "That's the goal. I love catching. That's my passion, but I would like to make the major leagues, too."

Hrabosky said he thinks Anderson will continue to progress in the minors and only time will tell his role in the Cardinals orgnanization.

"I have not seen Bryan, but I have read about him, and I understand he's a career .300 hitter," Hrabosky said. "And just being around him the past couple days, he carries himself well and he's confident. I talked to Chris [Perez] about him and he says he likes to play, calls a good game and does the right things."

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