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Perisho Journal


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i apologize if this has been posted here before, but i just read it and i really liked the insight into the process of putting together the roster, and about how important being on the final roster really is to these guys. i'm really rooting for this guy now.







End justifies the spring


Relief pitcher Matt Perisho went from entering Marlins camp as a nonroster invitee to securing a spot in the bullpen.





When Marlins manager Jack McKeon shook Matt Perisho's hand and officially welcomed him to the team Friday, it ended six weeks of hoping, working and praying for another chance at the majors. In 10 years of pro baseball, Perisho has pitched in Venezuela, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and a host of tiny minor-league towns. So when the Marlins invited him to spring training in December as a nonroster invitee -- the longest of baseball long shots -- Perisho made a decision: If he didn't make the team, he was giving up on United States baseball and heading for Japan.


At The Herald's request, Perisho kept a diary of his spring training journey. This is his story, as told to baseball writer Kevin Baxter:




Feb. 22: I met manager Jack McKeon today, and he even knew who I was! Turns out he scouted me a long time ago, so we had a good talk about that. I also threw a bullpen session today at about 80 percent. Today was just about feeling out the mound and feeling the rhythm of my delivery, but I couldn't help thinking, ''What are they looking for?'' Is it velocity? Control? A good breaking ball? No matter. I always stink in bullpens anyway. The games will be different.




Feb. 26: When you're a nonroster guy, you really need to find a way to stand out every day. Not with false hustle or anything fake, but you have to be just a little bit better than the next guy -- more determined and a lot less relaxed. Today I faced hitters for the first time, and I was really pleased with my changeup. I came away feeling like today was one of those eye-opening days when maybe somebody took note of what I can offer.




March 9: We lost to the New York Mets today, but it was a good day for me. Not only did I throw a perfect inning with two strikeouts, but I got to see John Franco, the Mets reliever, who is one of my all-time favorite pitchers. My confidence is pretty high right now, even though I gave up a really cheap run to a left-handed hitter a few days ago. I'm feeling strong. First cuts are tomorrow, though, so I'll be holding my breath.




March 12: OK, I survived the first round of cuts -- which gives me a pretty big confidence boost after getting sent down last year after pitching just three innings in spring training. So what happens? I go out and pitch against St. Louis, and I'm a mess mechanically. I walked the first guy, then gave up a hit to another lefty. But I didn't give up a run and that's the bottom line -- no runs.




March 14: Hola from Mexico! A lot of guys complained about having to make such a long and complicated road trip during spring training, but I'm thrilled to be here rather than back in Jupiter. For players, it's common to try to figure out who's likely to make the team and where you fit it -- and if the manager and pitching coach are in Mexico and you're in Florida, that's not a good sign. The stadium here is really small, and the altitude is ridiculously high -- but having an opportunity to watch Darren Oliver pitch Saturday, then Dontrelle Willis before I got in today, really calmed my nerves. I got the first two outs on four pitches, then had another bad walk but didn't allow a run, and my stuff was down in the zone. Everything was just right. (Knock on wood.)




March 22: There are about 40 players left and 16 of them are pitchers. I think they're only going to keep 11, so the competition is especially tight with the three lefties. I'm good friends with Tommy Phelps, having played with him during a rehab assignment when I was with Detroit. Being in competition with a guy who helped you -- and who you helped -- is more fun than you'd think because, first and foremost, we're friends -- and you always want to see your friends succeed. But on to the game. We played Houston again, and I gave up one hit in one inning but got a double play, so it was a 1-2-3 inning. My changeup was outstanding. Everything is in place to make a final push for a spot on the team. Today, I threw 10 pitches and eight were strikes. Maybe it's my time (again).




March 23: The pressure of the last two weeks of spring training is really getting rough. I always have this uneasy feeling that one of the coaches is going to tap me on the shoulder and give me the dreaded message: ''Hey, skip wants to see you.'' Everybody knows that is bad, bad news in the spring, and I've heard it four times.




March 24: It's all about opportunities -- and today I took advantage of a big one. We were playing the Cardinals, and when their regulars came out, they put a bunch of left-handers in. McKeon and pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal wanted to see if I could get left-handers out, so I went into the game and struck one out and got the other on a ground ball. It was a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 inning -- just want I needed with my future on the line. Plus seven of those nine pitches were strikes.




March 27: I didn't sleep very well last night, thinking about that last at-bat yesterday -- a game-winning homer. Should I have thrown another pitch? Maybe I should have walked the guy. But I did the best I could, and I'll have to leave it at that and bounce back tonight against the Orioles, and show everybody that one pitch isn't going to ruin my spring.




March 30: I think the spring is starting to wear people's patience. At this point, everybody is restless and ready for the season to start. Today I pitched well against the Expos, but I tried to work on something that will help me against left-handed hitters during the season and it proved costly when I gave up a double late in the game. Just giving up a hit to a lefty might cost me; putting zeros up on the scoreboard might not be good enough. That's what makes spring training tough: You never know what's going to make or break you.




April 1: Huge moves were made today, but, unfortunately, no pitchers were involved. The team is pretty much set as far as position players, but the drama isn't done for the pitchers. Last night, the stress came to a head for me. At 7:30, I was out like a light and didn't wake up until 7:30 this morning. My wife said I snored all 12 hours. She tried to wake me, but no luck. I'm mentally and physically exhausted. Whatever happens now, I will be at peace knowing that I did all I could. They've been preaching consistency, and I've been consistent every time out. And I've proven people wrong. But if I do get sent down, I will be ticked because it'll just be another organization telling you one thing and doing another.




April 2: I had a pretty good idea that today would be the day. And before I got to the clubhouse, Mike Neu was sitting outside and said that they had made two moves already. I didn't even want to walk in the door. But, obviously, I had to, and once inside nobody said anything. We got on the bus to Port St. Lucie, and that's when I found out that Michael Tejera had been sent down. At that point, there were only six of us relievers left.


We had all made it. If I could have gotten out of the bus and danced down the highway, I would have. I can't even put my feelings into words yet. When we got to the stadium, Jack came up and shook my hand and said, ``Congratulations. Keep it going.''


For me, that just solidified all the work that I had done. Going to winter ball. Learning to be a reliever in the minor leagues. And redeveloping my game. It all paid off.


This changes everything. When I was in the majors before, we bought a nice-sized house, and our kids were happy in the schools. But last winter, I walked away from a minor-league contract with Tampa Bay for an opportunity to be a big-leaguer, so we've been depleting our savings ever since. It has been costing me to play baseball, and if I hadn't made it and had gone to Triple A, we wouldn't have been able to afford our house. If I would have gone to Japan, we would have had to sell it because we'd be gone eight months out of the year. So now I can keep my family in their home base, and my kids can stay with their friends.


So now, on Tuesday, the battle really begins. It's much easier to make the team then it is to stay here. I know that Michael is going to want to prove everybody wrong. He's got that fire in his stomach. He's going to go to Albuquerque, and any slip-up by Tommy Phelps or me and he's going to be ready.


There are probably 20 guys in the organization waiting for my spot.


But, for now, it's mine.

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