Astros coach Perez heads up Colombian Classic team
HOUSTON -- He spoke with the kind of infectious excitement we've come to expect from those who've gotten to know new Astros manager Bo Porter in the last few months. That's a great sign when you consider few men will be as close to Porter on the baseball field as bench coach Eduardo Perez.
Perez, who's in Panama to coach Colombia in this weekend's World Baseball Classic qualifying round, said Wednesday he's excited for the opportunity to work alongside Porter and try to change the Astros' fortunes entering the American League West in 2013.
"I really believe we have a good coaching staff," Perez said. "Bo, I think, is going to be great. He's got a lot of energy. He's a baseball man. He's really hungry to get out there. That's the type of energy we all need to feed of off, and it's going to be phenomenal to work under."
Perez was hired as bench coach on Nov. 5, the same day the club announced Dennis Martinez was going to be the bullpen coach. The rest of the staff consists of hitting coach John Mallee, third-base coach Dave Trembley, pitching coach Doug Brocail and first-base coach Dave Clark.
Perez, 43, has both playing and coaching experience in the Majors and has also performed well as a manager in Latin America. Perez previously had success as manager of the Ponce Lions in the Puerto Rico Winter League for two seasons (2008-09), earning Manager of the Year honors in 2008 and also guiding the Lions to the Caribbean Series in 2009.
He played in the Major Leagues for 13 seasons with the Angels, Reds, Cardinals, Rays, Indians and Mariners. He later worked for the Marlins, as hitting coach, and Indians, as special assistant to the baseball operations department.
As bench coach, Perez will work closely with Porter on in-game strategy, as well as anything else Porter needs him to do.
"I'm going to be a second set of eyes," Perez said. "Everything he needs off the field, when it comes to numbers or when it comes to being two or three innings ahead, I'm going to be there for him. The bottom line is we've been around the game a long time, including as players, and we need to go out there and help put this organization in the position to be great.
"It's a good team, there's good team chemistry and coaching chemistry. I know what Bo's about. He wants to do well and he wants the organization to do well, and I've definitely bought into that. That's the biggest thing, to understand what it takes to succeed, not only for one year but for a long time. That's what we need."
The Astros' rebuilding course is still in the early stages. Houston was the youngest team in the National League last year and lost a club-record 107 games, but the team is confident it's on the right course heading into the AL next year. Perez knows well the strides the farm system has made the last few years and believes the talent will soon be filling the Major League roster.
"I'm watching every day what the young players are doing in the Arizona Fall League and keeping tabs on that, keeping tabs on how much better the system is," Perez said. "We had a first-round pick with Carlos [Correa, the shortstop drafted No. 1 overall out of Puerto Rico this year] and the sky's the limit. We know that, but we have to be patient.
"You don't plant a seed and expect there to be a tree at the end of the week or end of the year. It's something you have to work for, you have to harvest and make sure you can take care of it. That's something we're going to do. Yes, you want to win ballgames, but at the same time you don't want to rush the recipe for success."
Perez's current focus is on the Colombian national team that will be trying to qualify this weekend for the third World Baseball Classic, which opens play in March. Perez agreed to guide the Colombians prior to getting hired by the Astros, but he's not committed to the national team beyond that. If Colombia makes the World Baseball Classic next March, Perez plans to have a discussion with general manager Jeff Luhnow.
"It's a commitment I take very seriously here with Colombia," Perez said. "With my commitment now with the Astros, it's something I'm going to have to weigh. I'm going to talk to Jeff about it. Hopefully this conversation takes place because that means Colombia's in it, but to be honest with you, knowing my role as bench coach, most likely I'm going to have to be in Kissimmee [for Spring Training]. I understand that, but right now the goal is to make sure we can beat Nicaragua."
The Nicaraguan team Colombia will face in World Baseball Classic qualifying on Friday night is managed by Martinez, the Astros' new bullpen coach. A season of bragging rights is on the line.
"It will be fun," Perez said. "It's great for Nicaragua and Colombia to face off in this tournament for the first time. Both countries are eager for this, so without a doubt it's going to be fun. There's going to be some bragging rights, and hopefully I'll be bragging and not [Martinez]."