KANSAS CITY — Former Springfield Cardinals closer Chris Perez arrived to the All-Star festivities on Monday sporting a long, flowing mane and Grizzly Adams beard, plus a penchant for speaking his mind on a Twitter account.
Make that, a big penchant for speaking his mind.
“I’ve always been like that. Now it’s just getting more play obviously. I’m a sound bite, I guess,” Perez joked during an interview with the News-Leader.
Perez last season became the first Springfield Cardinals alum to participate in an All-Star Game, and the Cleveland Indians closer could be called on again tonight for the American League, having converted the circuit’s third-most saves, 23.
But his opinion and personality have taken center stage almost more often, or so it seems. Now 27 and five years removed from Springfield, Perez has more than 48,000 followers on his Twitter account, @ChrisPerez54.
Then again, living on the edge was his modus operandi in Springfield in 2007, when he converted 27 consecutive saves after coughing up a winning home run in the second game of the season. Many nights, however, were more like high-wire acts.
“I was raw. Now, I’m not a totally different pitcher but I definitely am more refined. A lot more strikes, a lot more control,” Perez said. “You remember, I’d walk the bases loaded and strike out the side.”
Perez joked that he wonders now whether the Cardinals would have allowed his Twitter account in 2007, given the organization had strict rules: no-facial hair policy and players were required to wear their socks up to their knees throw-back style. He went the extra mile, often sporting a buzz cut.
Already this year, Perez has fired off comments about Indians fans not supporting the team enough, about anti-LeBron James sentiment in Cleveland and also has taken a dig at the Kansas City Royals.
Beyond that, he went on radio and implicated the St. Louis Cardinals in a recent pine tar-pitchers controversy, after baseball slapped Tampa Bay’s Joel Peralta with an eight-game suspension. Umpires discovered pine tar in Peralta’s glove.
As teammate and fellow all-star Asdrubal Cabrera said Monday, “He’s crazy.”
“But he’s a really good guy in the clubhouse,” Cabrera quickly added.
Perez is among 19 players off the 2007 Springfield club to reach the big leagues, and was one of the bigger names that season, given the right-hander was a 42nd round draft pick in 2006 out of the University of Miami. He had signed for a reported $800,000.
Pretty much, games were over after the starting pitcher exited on a team that fell two wins shy of the Texas League pennant. Perez, however, was promoted to Triple-A Memphis on July 31 that season.
“(Kyle) McClellan was the seventh, (Jason) Motte was the eighth and I was the ninth,” Perez said, listing three current big-leaguers who were the back end of Springfield’s bullpen during the heart of the 2007 season. “In Double-A, that was a pretty good bullpen.”