MIAMI—Despite signing for just $20,000 last year, Sam Perez in an intriguing bullpen prospect because the 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander has a history of being able to pitch multiple innings.
The 22-year-old is interesting for other reasons, too. Those include his intelligence, his delivery and his heritage.
Perez has Mexican blood on his father’s side, but his family has been in the U.S. for three generations. Thus he is not completely fluent in Spanish, though he does speak it.
Raised in Branson, Mo., Perez is a country boy at heart. “(My teammates) look at me funny when I walk into the clubhouse with cowboy boots on,” he said.
Perez also stands out because of his educational background. He graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology and applied to medical school.
But Perez, who earned a 3.48 grade-point average, postponed a possible career in medicine when he improved at Missouri State.
After pitching at 88 mph as an undrafted high school senior, Perez went 20-2 in college—with every decision coming in relief. With a career 3.30 ERA, he made 79 relief appearances and pitched 193 innings—well over two innings per stint.
Missouri State lost in the Missouri Valley Conference final last year, but Perez did all he could, pitching four times in three days and totaling more than 200 pitches.
The Marlins drafted Perez in the fifth round last year and paid him well under slot.
“I don’t care if they gave me $100, but I was going to graduate college,” Perez said.
Perez has a deceptive delivery in which the ball appears to come out of his shoulder or his shirt rather than his hand.
Perez, who pitches at 90-92 mph with a slider and changeup, began the season in the low Class A Greensboro bullpen.
“I’ve noticed that hitters can’t catch up to my fastball,” Perez said, “and it’s not because I throw 96 (mph).”
• The Marlins called up Double-A Jacksonville lefthander Jarlin Garcia to work in the bullpen. He didn’t allow a hit or run in his first two appearances.
— Walter Villa is a writer based in Miami