Perry relishes first big league save
Ryan Perry has always been a pitcher running on adrenaline, no matter what the inning. When he made the Tigers roster out of Spring Training a year ago, he had to learn how to handle that even in lower-pressure outings, let alone spots where he was protecting a lead.
One can imagine, then, how Perry would react to his chance at his first Major League save. The fact that all that energy didn’t make him a wreck on the mound should give an idea how much he worked on controlling that adrenaline.
“Perry’s always amped up for everything,” catcher Alex Avila said. “I knew he was going to be, and he’d be throwing hard. This year, I’ve seen that every time he comes out, he has a little bit of a different presence on the mound. Where last year he might’ve been a little bit wild at some points, this year he’s always in control.
“Like today, his first save opportunity, most guys would be overthrowing and stuff like that, but he was just letting it fly and he threw fantastic. I mean, his stuff was pretty unhittable today. I wouldn’t have wanted to face him, that’s for sure.”
No many guys had the chance. Though he ended up coming on in the eighth to try to get a four-out save, it was a four-up, four-down outing in which nobody made solid contact off of him.
Perry got the chance because closer Jose Valverde, Joel Zumaya and Phil Coke were all being rested. All of them pitched Friday’s home opener. Zumaya and Coke pitched multiple innings. Valverde had pitched in each of the Tigers’ first four games, including three straight days, so he had to rest.
That reduced Saturday’s available to Perry, Fu-Te Ni, Brad Thomas and Eddie Bonine. Leyland said in the morning that Perry would close if there was a game to save.
“When we took a 2-0 lead, the whole time I was just excited and ready to get out there,” Perry said.
Leyland didn’t say Perry would close in the eighth, but once Ni struck out Travis Hafner for the second out of the inning, Leyland likely didn’t want to chance Ni facing a right-handed hitter after giving up a .298 average to them last year.
Enter Perry, who struck out Peralta on a nasty slider, then had to sit through the bottom of the eighth until the Tigers went down in order. It would’ve been a perfect time for that energy to overtake him, but all the time, he said he was focused on mechanical points and the opponent.
“Mentally, I was sitting in the dugout trying to visualize it as best as I can,” Perry said. “That’s kind of been a big thing for me lately. Since probably halfway through spring, I’ve really been trying to focus, kind of get a visual picture of what I’m trying to do in my head, and then do it.”
That doesn’t mean he was completely calm.
“Especially coming in in the eighth, my heart’s pounding a little,” he admitted. “But I think my confidence has just grown since last year, so I’m able to control it, keep my body in position to succeed instead of just sporadically trying to just throw the ball.”
Perry used a 97 mph fastball to get a leadoff groundout from Matt Laporta. He had to scramble when Mark Grudzielanek hit a comebacker, but he hurried a throw that first baseman Miguel Cabrera stretched to grab.
That left Perry one out away, and brought the crowd of 35,332 to its feet. That’s when the energy really picked up.
“Two outs in the ninth, you just hear the roar of the crowd,” he said. “I looked up and you see everybody get up out of their seats. That was kind of a moment that you never really forget.”
The extra adrenaline boosted Perry’s fastball up to 98 mph on pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena, who fell into an 0-2 hole before meekly popping out in foul territory on the third-base side.
The celebration was a matter of style. Instead of something animated, Perry looked almost relieved, and shook some hands. He also got the game ball, which he stashed in his locker.
“That’s one ball I’ll definitely keep,” he said.
It was his first save, but he’s certainly hoping it isn’t his last.
“That’s definitely what I would like to work towards, for sure,” Perry said. “That would definitely be a dream come true. But I know there’s still some work involved, so I’m just trying to get there.”