Notes: Perez ready to battle for a spot

Notes: Perez ready to battle for a spot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Tomas Perez bounced around the clubhouse as usual on Monday, high-fiving and giving hard slaps on the back to teammates.

Always smiling and happy to be with other baseball players, Perez is still keenly aware of Philadelphia's offseason acquisitions.

First, Abraham Nunez, then Alex S. Gonzalez. One of those players would seem to make Perez irrelevant, but two is overkill.

"The organization made a decision to try and better the team," Perez said. "Hopefully, I'll be on the team no matter what. I have to go out and perform no matter what. Hopefully, I'll make it."

Manager Charlie Manuel said he plans to use Perez, Nunez, Gonzalez and Matt Kata in the outfield during Spring Training, even though all have marginal experience at the position. The Phillies will look at outfielders Shane Victorino, Josh Kroeger and Shawn Garrett as options for the fourth and fifth outfield spots.

While Perez, 32, said he played some outfield this winter in his native Venezuela, but he has logged only one game there in the Majors, in right field for the Blue Jays in 2001. The switch-hitter, who has spent six years with the Phillies, hit .233 with no homers last season.

He's expected to earn $700,000 this season, and he has a club option worth $800,000 in 2007 or a $75,000 buyout.

Perez understands the business side, and realizes he may be auditioning for the other 29 teams this spring. But he'd prefer to remain in Philadelphia.

"I don't know. I'll have to wait and see what happens, and wait until they make a decision," Perez said. "I have real good teammates, real good friends here. Hopefully, I'll stay with the Phillies for the rest of my career."

spring training 2006
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WBC excitement: Despite his uncertain status, Perez is thrilled with the possibility of representing his native Venezuela in the inagural World Baseball Classic.

Perez is on the provisional roster and could join Abreu.

"It's an event," he said. "You never get to see this many big-leaguers on the same team. Playing is something you'll remember you're whole life. You can tell your children about representing your country."

In the week before Spring Training, Perez made the trip to Venezuela for three practices. The team stopped in Caracas, Maracay and Valencia, and worked out before full houses.

Team Venezuela is stacked with a rotation that will include some of the following: Johan Santana (Twins), Freddy Garcia (White Sox), Carlos Zambrano (Cubs), Victor Zambrano (Mets), Kelvim Escobar (Angels) and Gustavo Chacin (Blue Jays).

"It's something to look forward to," he said.

Booking it: Chris Booker, vying to make the Phillies as a middle reliever, has been slowed by a left knee injury.

The Tigers selected Booker in the Rule 5 Draft from the Nationals and shipped him to the Philadelphia. The righty must remain on the Phillies' 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Nationals, his original club.

Booker had surgery in the offseason, but experienced soreness during his rehabilitation. He's been limited to light jogging and long-tossing, but hasn't been cleared him to throw off a mound.

"I think I'll have enough time to show what I can do," said Booker.

The Phillies hope to see the strikeout pitcher who posted a 2.49 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 65 innings for the Reds' Triple-A club last season. The high whiff totals were attributed to him mastering a forkball, but Booker said had always thrown it.

"From Day 1 with the Cubs," he said. "They backed me off it because they wanted me to develop my arm. I guess people are just taking a look at it now."

Booker said he abandoned the pitch for a few years, but dusted it off when he struggled with his change up, and needed another offspeed pitch.

"I call it a split-finger, splitty," he said. "You can throw hard in this game, and people are going to hit. It doesn't matter how hard you throw, they'll hit it. (The forkball) is my outpitch."

Kirby, meet Jimmy: Manuel spent part of his afternoon media session discussing Jimmy Rollins' supreme confidence in his ability. At one point, a reporter that Rollins might have self-esteem issues and needed a confidence.

"Rollins?" Manuel said. "Down on himself? Jeez."

Asked about the most confident player he's ever been around, Manuel paused, and said: "Kirby Puckett. He was my favorite player."

"I'd ask him how he was hitting, and he'd say 'good,'" Manuel said. "I'd say, 'you're 0-for-20. He'd say, 'I'm still hitting good, just watch me.

"I saw Kirby make $500 dollars a month, and $6 million. He was the same guy, with the same smile, the same energy, every ball he ran out. He had every ingredient."

Manuel said the Hall-of-Famer recently boasted that he could still hit .275 with a bad eye. He sees some of that swagger in his young shortstop.

"I see the personality, the smile, the charisma in him," Manuel said. "Do I see it everyday, not yet, but it was getting consistent last year."

The one difference? Rollins would acknowledge a slump.

"He might tell me he's scuffling or something, and I'll say, 'You're not scuffling," Manuel said. "I'll say something off the wall, encourage him. He'll give me a big smile."

Philling In: Bobby Abreu is in Florida and will arrive in camp Tuesday. He'll hold a press conference to discuss his reaction to the winter's trade rumors. ... Cole Hamels is throwing pain free, and is scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time on Friday.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.