Odalis Perez has trained for a big comeback

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- After a miserable 2005 season, Odalis Perez was advised to hire a personal trainer. Perhaps the message was clear.

``It was somebody`s idea; I won`t tell who,`` the Los Angeles Dodgers` left-hander said with a smile.

Perez gave it a shot, and was sold after a week or so. Now, several months later, he thinks the decision holds the key to his season.

``Believe me, I`ll have a personal trainer from now on,`` he said. ``I feel totally different. My arm is stronger, my whole body is stronger. I came into camp thinner, about 14 pounds.

``I`ve had too many injuries. I don`t want that anymore. I want to be part of this new team, I want to be here for a long time. Most of the Dominican guys, they have personal trainers. You just need somebody next to you who knows all that kind of stuff.``

The Dodgers acquired Perez from the Atlanta Braves before the 2002 season, and he was an immediate success, going 15-10 with a 3.00 ERA and pitching in the All-Star game.

The 28-year-old pitcher hasn`t been the same since, going 12-12 with a 4.52 ERA in 2003; 7-6 with a 3.25 ERA in 2004, and 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA in only 19 games last year, when he spent nearly half the season on the disabled list because of soreness in his pitching shoulder and a strained muscle in his side.

Perez said he injured his shoulder the second time he threw last spring and wasn`t totally right the whole year. As he struggled, the Dodgers lost with regularity, going 71-91 for their second-worst season since moving west from Brooklyn in 1958.

``Playing the way we were playing, I didn`t have the desire to come to the ballpark,`` Perez said. ``This year, from what I see from the beginning of spring training, the chemistry is different.``

Perez, who signed a three-year, $24 million contract before last season, realizes a lot is expected of him, and he welcomes the high expectations.

``I think the key for this team to go a long, long way is on me,`` he said. ``I don`t see too many guys having my ability, my stuff. I came to camp to be a 20-game winner. Everybody here knows I can do it.

``It`s not a pressure. When you make the kind of money I`m making, you have to go out there and compete at that level. I want to show people I`m a winner. To do that, you have to be healthy.``

New pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, for one, is impressed.

``His work ethic is good, he`s finished everything we`ve asked him to do, he`s bouncing back well,`` Honeycutt said Saturday. ``It all kind of goes hand in hand. For where we`re at, he`s throwing the ball as well as anybody.

``What happened in the past is documented. All I`m concerned about is Odalis Perez in 2006. He worked hard in the winter, he`s got his weight down.``

Perez will pitch Sunday against the New York Mets before leaving the Dodgers to play in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic. He`s scheduled to work Thursday against Italy in Kissimmee, Fla.

Honeycutt has no problem with Perez`s decision to pitch in the Classic, and doesn`t share the concerns of others who fear a glut of injuries.

``It`s all speculation,`` Honeycutt said. ``They have set guidelines. The 65 pitches on the first round is probably a little advanced. We`re in communication with their people. There`s probably a little more intensity with the WBC than in exhibition games.``

Perez looks forward to pitching, but realizes where his main responsibility lies.

``The Classic is important for me. I want to represent my country,`` he said. ``The most important thing is to enter the season healthy. This is my job - I don`t get paid to pitch in the World Classic.``

Bet365.com has the Los Angeles Dodgers listed at +2500 to win the 2006 World Series.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for our Editorial Team, please contact us at Editorial

share SHARE rss RSS FEED email EMAIL print PRINT

There haven't been any comments posted on this article. Be the first to respond!

You are currently not logged in.
Login | Signup | Help
You must be logged in to post a comment.

Top Response

There have been no comments on this article. Be the first to respond!