Hitting the Midway Point: An Interview with Josue Perez

Greetings from vacation-land! I’m using the road trip/  all-star break to recharge some batteries and get ready for the second half.

I put together an interview with Texas Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Josue Perez while he was in Hickory during the last homestand. Perez was the Crawdads hitting coach in 2012 and was scheduled to come back to Hickory this season before he took the coordinator’s job.

Perez talked about several of the Crawdads hitters (or at least the ones I thought to ask him about) and their progression in the first half.

Overall, it’s a good group of hitters. They had a good start; they’ve had some down time. Overall, what have you seen with the group of guys?

Perez: Very pleased, I’m very pleased with the group of guys we have here, mostly. Out of the gate, they started out really good. They kind went through a bump in the road there and now we’re trying to get them back together again. I mean, that’s baseball. Overall, I like what I see.

We’ll continue to work on staying with a plan and having a plan for the at bats, especially with guys on situational hitting More often than not, they’re able to do it. Early in the year they were doing a great job with situational hitting, where we’d score a lot of runs without getting a big hit. We’d score in a lot of different ways. It’s teaching these kids how to win ball games without necessarily hitting three, four, five home runs in a game. They’re learning from it and they’re getting it, so I’m very pleased.

I know Frankie (Crawdads hitting coach Francisco Matos) is very proud of how these guys have gone about their business.

Let me ask you first about Luke Tendler. He got off to a good start and had a little bump. What do you see from him?

Perez: I think it’s all about going back to basics. Early in the season, he had a plan. He had an approach and he was executing it. Being able to stay on the fastball and be up on everything else. Lately, it’s been the lack of being able to be ready on time. So, he’s missing a lot of fastballs and he’s late getting into position and that’s the reason he’s been struggling a little bit. He’s going back to basics and making sure that he’s still on the fastball when he goes up to bat.

Luke Tendler propelled a hot start into a SAL all-star game start

Luke Tendler propelled a hot start into a SAL all-star game start (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

You’ve had guys like him and Trevino this year. When you were here in 2012 it was Chris Grayson, who got off to a great start. It seems to be a pattern where a college guy will get off to a good start when no one has really seen them yet, and maybe they’re a bit more advanced because of their age. Then they hit that little lull. Is that a problem that you see when you work with them?

Perez: No, I wouldn’t say that; I would say it’s about adjustments. Obviously when facing opposing pitchers, we don’t know a lot about them, just like they don’t know a lot about us. So, at that particular time, the hitters have the advantage. Once the opposing pitchers see the tendencies, they’re going to make an adjustment. And now, you’ve got to make an adjustment back to them. The good ones do make an adjustment and the other ones struggle to get back into it. So it’s still about making adjustments.

Are these kids, because for one reason or another they were so successful in college for the most part, or they wouldn’t be here, have they really had to learn how to make adjustments before they got to this level?

Perez: I’m pretty sure that a lot of the guys did it, or else they wouldn’t be here. That’s just the nature of competing. If you want to win the at bat, or you want to win the game, you have to make an adjustment from game to game. But here it’s a little bit different, because it’s not game by game, it’s at bat to at bat. Sometimes, it’s pitch to pitch. The ones that are able to do that are the better ones.

I think somewhere along the way, they have to make that adjustment. Here it’s more magnified because the pitchers are better. They have better stuff and they’re able to express it a little bit better.

Let me ask you about (Jose) Trevino, who is another one that got off to a good start and seems to be finding his way again.

Perez: You have to take into consideration with Trevino that he is behind the dish for the first time in a full season. He’s been catching a lot of games. He’s a kid that plays with a lot of energy and a lot of life. He’s really into every pitch behind the dish and he’s the same way as a hitter. So, a lot of times we ask those guys to be a catcher first and then a hitter. We’re trying to combine both of them and I think he’s one of the good ones that’s going to be able to do it – both catch and hit.

Again he’s hitting the ball on the rope, like you said, and he had a big three-run bomb a couple of days ago. He’s starting to feel that early feeling back again. Again, it’s just a matter of – and we talk about this all the time – it’s not how you start, but how you finish. Along the way you’re going to find some ways to fight. If you fight the right way, you’re going to stay above water. So, he’s doing a good job of it.

Jose Trevino leads the Crawdads with 9 homers ad 37 RBI  (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Jose Trevino leads the Crawdads with 9 homers ad 37 RBI (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Josh Morgan is in a nice stretch over about a 35-game stretch. He was one that started slow and come on as the season progressed. What do you see with Josh?

Perez: The word with Josh is he’s basically rolling right along. He was a little bit off when we first started the season. To his credit, and Frankie’s credit, he’s worked hard every day on trying to get him back to the way we saw him in spring training. Getting him into position to hit, making sure he’s staying on the fastball, making sure he stays on his front, not trying to do too much, stay away from the air, backspin the ball. So, little by little, he’s started to not only believe it, but execute it. And now he’s executing it more often than not.

He’s starting to back spin the ball, taking good pitches and getting into good counts, driving the ball. So, he’s been able to maintain it for a long period of time, which is pretty remarkable at his age, to see it. I hope he’s able to keep it the right way, now.

Josh Morgan leads the Crawdads in batting avg. (.301) and OBP (.386)

Josh Morgan leads the Crawdads in batting avg. (.301) and OBP (.386)

Jairo Beras, I know has had a disappointing start – especially given where he ended up last year – with injuries and other things that have happened. What’s the plan for him at this point?

Perez: It’s about now. It’s about being where his feet are. It’s about winning the moment. It’s about the rest of the year. We’re not talking about the past. That’s over. Can we win every day from now on? That’s basically the message to him. Forget about it and let’s start over. This is a new beginning. Every day, come to the ballpark ready to play. Help this team win, which is in a really good place right now. They’re playing for something. Not only are they playing because they want to be big leaguers and reach the majors, but they’re playing to win it. It’s always fun when you’re in that kind of environment. We want him to be a part of it and he wants to be a part of it. This is about the moment. Be a good teammate everyday and do whatever you can now to win this moment. That’s the plan.

It’s been pretty good since being back, both offensively and defensively. The motivation’s been good and he wants to play. Deep inside, he wants to reach his dream and that’s always going to be the biggest motivation. Now, he’s got the baby, so that’s a big motivation that he’s playing for. Again, it’s about how he can win the moment from now on.

Jairo Beras had a strong finish to the first half when he hit .333 with 3 homers, 9 RBI and scored 10 runs in the last 10 games (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

Jairo Beras had a strong finish to the first half when he hit .333 with 3 homers, 9 RBI and scored 10 runs in the last 10 games (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

Rock Shoulders is a guy who came here with some experience. He’s got here and basically hit into some bad luck. He’ll hit the ball on the screws and it’s finding people. What do you expect to see from him?

Perez: I saw him in Round Rock. He was there for about a week or so, because we needed some bodies there. He did a really good job there. We actually won a game 1-0 in Round Rock and he hit a solo home run. Then he took a couple of other good swings and had another really good game there. So, I came down here saw that he was struggling without struggling kind of deal, where he’d hit a few balls well, he had no luck. The next thing you know, he went a few days without a hit. That’s just baseball.

A lot of times, you do a lot of good things and things don’t go your way. Again, he’s in a position right now where he’s going to be able to help this team. Right now, some of the luck is starting to go his way and he’s starting to put some good at bats together. He’s starting to swing the bat and I know he had some good power numbers with the Cubs. So hopefully we can see that some of that in this organization and try to help his career.

Rock Shoulders joined the Crawdads mid-May (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

Rock Shoulders joined the Crawdads mid-May (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

(Eduard) Pinto had a good winter and starting well and like most everybody else tailed off. He just looks like a hit machine. When he’s in a groove, you’re not going to get it by him. He’s also starting to show a little patience lately.

Perez: He’s a professional hitter. And now like you said, now he’s adding that patience at the plate and is able to stay with his plan and stay with his pitch and not go away from what he wants to do at the plate. He’s going to going to become a little bit more of a professional hitter. He has a really good feel for hitting and a really good barrel awareness. He knows how to use the whole field. He’s fun to watch and he brings a lot of energy and he’s only 20.

Eduard put up a .273/.321.375 slash in the first half (Photo by Tracy Proffitt)

Eduard Pinto put up a .273/.321.375 slash in the first half (Photo by Tracy Proffitt)

He reminds me – and I don’t know why and whether or not this is an accurate comparison – he reminds me of Tomas Telis for whatever reason. He has that stocky body at the plate and quick hands and a good eye.

Perez: Yes, especially from the left side, it’s a little bit of Telis. Telis probably swings a little bit harder than Pinto does, but it’s pretty much the same guy. He’s scrappy, knows how to barrel the ball, goes the other way, and pulls it when he has to. He goes up there to hit. He’s a good hitter and hopefully we can get him up in the system so we can do something good for him.

Who else do you need to talk about?

Perez: (Michael) De Leon and the heart and soul he brings to the team. Obviously, we know that the hitting is always going to be light right now until he grows into his body a little bit more. A lot of stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score, he does it. That’s why I bring him up.

I think he’s the heart and soul of this team. I love some other guys, obviously, but what he brings to the game – the energy, he’s always happy the plays that he makes, he quarterbacks the whole field from the shortstop position, and how much this team trusts him – is pretty remarkable at his age.

I had the pleasure to watch him last year in the playoffs at the end of the year at Myrtle (Beach). He came up in clutch situations and got big hits in the playoff, including a three-run bomb in the championship series. So I know what type of player he is in big moments.

SS Michael De Leon continued to bring defensive wizardry to the Crawdads infield (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

SS Michael De Leon continued to bring defensive wizardry to the Crawdads infield (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

He’s not afraid of big moments.

Perez: He’s not, and actually he looks for them. That’s what you want.

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