Role Change Has Carlos Perez Back On Braves' Radar





ATLANTA—Not so long ago, the Braves considered Carlos Perez to be one of the top pitching prospects in the organization.

Though the past two seasons have dimmed enthusiasm for the lefthander, the Braves believe Perez still can make an impact in the big leagues one day.

"When you look at the overall package, including his age (21), you realize there's no reason in the world to give up on him," said Jonathan Schuerholz, who managed Perez at Rookie-level Danville in 2012.

"He's made a lot of strides. And when you combine that with his natural ability, there's still reason to get excited."

Perez signed with the Braves out of the Dominican Republic for $600,000 in July 2008 and earned No. 1 prospect honors in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2010.

He struggled with his control while spending most of 2011 in the low Class A Rome rotation, leading to 66 walks in 125 innings. Perez returned to the South Atlantic League in 2012 before being demoted to Danville at midseason, where he started to show flashes of his potential upon making a full-time shift to the bullpen.

Perez's lack of control stemmed from his inability to repeat his delivery. He worked diligently on mechanical issues with several coaches, including Danville's Gabe Luckert and then pitching coordinator Dave Wallace, leading to a velocity spike.

Perez's fastball improved to 91-93 mph after residing in the upper 80s at Rome. He also displayed a tighter spin on his curveball, which gave him two above-average pitches out of the bullpen. With Danville, he struck out 50 in 31 innings while allowing a .182 opponent average.

The Braves want Perez to continue to work on his below-average changeup. He also has shown an increase in confidence, which ought to help him make the jump to Rome.

"Sometimes it just takes longer for some guys to put everything together," said Randy Ingle, who managed Rome in 2012. "That's especially true with lefthanded pitchers. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him start putting it all together (in 2013)."

WIGWAM WISPS

• Left fielder Evan Gattis hit .303/.365/.595 in 195 at-bats for Zulia and led the Venezuelan League in home runs (16) and slugging while finishing third in RBIs (44) and extra-base hits (25).

• Righthanded reliever Billy Bullock tested positive for a "drug of abuse" in December and will miss the first 50 games of 2013. He finished last season with Double-A Mississippi.