Perez patient on the sidelines
Minor League prospect takes it slow after health setback
By Mark Sheldon /

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Crouching for what seems like endless bullpen sessions in Spring Training can become tiring and tedious for many catchers. And that's on the top of the hitting, throwing and running.

Miguel Perez can't wait for the day he can take part in the grind again.

Perez is out of commission until at least the All-Star break. After he was diagnosed with a blood clot in September, the 23-year-old had November surgery in St. Louis to remove a right rib. The procedure was performed to relieve pressure on his subclavian artery.

That's not where the problems ended. Perez was rehabilitating in Sarasota when something else went wrong.

"Two weeks after that [surgery], I started getting a fever and getting tired easily," Perez said. "I knew it wasn't normal."

Doctors found that one of Perez's sutures had come undone. He was bleeding and developed an infection in his lung and chest. He needed a chest tube inserted to drain the fluid. Four days later, he had to endure the chest tube procedure a second time.

Perez batted .241 in 111 games with Double-A Chattanooga last season and was rated the organization's seventh-best prospect. Two seasons ago, he was the Reds' Minor League defensive player of the year.

"The hard part for me is to come here every day and stretch with the team," Perez said. "Right away, I come in [the clubhouse] and start my rehab. I see a lot of players coming in when I'm in the gym working out. I know they've been throwing and hitting."
Perez knew not playing ball for a while wasn't the worst that could happen. He was relieved that his wife, baby daughter and mother were visiting from Venezuela when the infection struck. They spent the holidays with him as he recuperated.

"You're here today, but you don't know if you'll be here tomorrow," Perez said. "That's what I learned from this experience."

On the move: First base prospect Joey Votto has impressed Reds brass with his hitting during the early sessions of live batting practice. Votto led the Southern League with a .319 average and was its Most Valuable Player while playing last season for Chattanooga.

The 23-year-old had 22 homers and 77 RBIs and also led the league in hits (162), doubles (46), on-base percentage (.408), slugging percentage (.547), extra-base hits (70), total bases (278), runs scored (85) and walks (78). Rated the organization's third-best prospect by Baseball America, he's likely to begin this season at Triple-A Louisville.

Name in the game: Former Reds starting pitcher Tom Browning made an early appearance when Reds' camp opened last week. Browning will work with Minor League pitchers, namely the left-handers, once their camp opens.

They're No. 1: The Reds have eight former first-round draft picks in Major League camp this spring. They are Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, Bubba Crosby, Phil Dumatrait, Ken Griffey Jr., Josh Hamilton, Eric Milton and Paul Wilson.

Of that group, Griffey (1987), Wilson (1991) and Hamilton (1999) were overall No. 1 picks. Only Bailey (seventh overall, 2004) was originally drafted by Cincinnati.

Class of '06: This will be the first professional Spring Training in Minor League camp for outfielder Drew Stubbs. The 22-year-old, who was the eighth overall draft pick in the first round last year, batted .252 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 56 games with rookie-level Billings in 2006.

Baseball America rated Stubbs as the Reds' fifth-best prospect in 2006.

What they're saying: "I know this. He was impressive [Thursday] in that live BP. Against Brian Meadows, I believe, he hit the ball out of the ballpark everywhere -- left, right and center -- everywhere. That's just batting practice. But to be able to hit the ball the other way out of the ballpark shows you he's got the chance to hit a little." -- Reds manager Jerry Narron, talking about Votto