White Sox

Remember That Guy: White Sox starter Melido Perez

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox starter Melido Perez

Melido Perez wasn’t as flashy as his brother, Pascual, nor as animated as his brother, Carlos, but he did all right for himself. He reigned near the top of the White Sox rotation for a little while; a long, lean 6-foot-4 right-hander with a nasty forkball and some sweet Jheri curl that inspired his White Sox teammates to call him Oil Can Harry.

Remember that guy?

Melido Turpen Gross Perez was born Feb. 15, 1966 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic in a full house. He had eight siblings, and six of the Perez boys would go on to pitch professionally. Melido, Pascual and Carlos made the majors; Valerio, Ruben Dario and Vladimir (who had a brief tryout for the Sox in 1991) all pitched in the minors.

Back home in the Dominican Republic, Melido’s father, Juan Pablo, joked his sons mastered pitching by throwing coconuts. Melido had four pet cows, named Perez, Perez, Perez and Perez.

In 1983, the Royals signed Melido and he started his pro career the following year at Charleston (class A) and worked his way through the Kansas City system, stopping at Eugene (low A) in 1985 and Burlington (A) in 1986. In 1987 at Fort Myers (A) and Memphis (AA), Perez posted a combined 3.09 ERA and debuted for the Royals at age 21 on Sept. 4 against the White Sox. He got the win, tossing seven innings of one (unearned) run ball. His first career strikeout was of Sox outfielder Gary Redus.

Perez made only three major league starts in 1987, and three months later he was traded to the White Sox along with pitchers Greg Hibbard, John Davis and Chuck Mount in exchange for Floyd Bannister and utility man Dave Cochrane. In 1988, Perez put together a fine rookie season for the White Sox, going 12-10 with a 3.79 ERA, leading the staff in both innings (197) and strikeouts (138).

Perez remains the last White Sox rookie to lead the team in strikeouts and is one of ten rookies in franchise history to do so. Those 138 strikeouts as a rookie are tied with Black Sox hurler Lefty Williams for third in franchise history, behind Gary Peters (189 in 1963) and Carlos Rodón (139 in 2015).

Perez led the White Sox in strikeouts again in 1989 (141) but battled inconsistency, going 11-14 with a 5.01 ERA. However, he did make two starts in which he struck out 12 batters. That would remain a career-high (he’d do it a third time in 1993). In 1990, Perez earned his first career Opening Day start, turning in a solid effort (six innings, four hits, one run, one walk, six strikeouts) though coming out of it with a no-decision in a 2-1 win against the Brewers.

1990 was a roller coaster ride. Though Perez answered the bell every time and made 35 starts, he ended up 13-14 with a 4.61 ERA in 197 innings. To illustrate the highs and lows of that season, Perez posted a 1.33 ERA in his 13 wins and a ghastly 9.57 ERA in his 14 losses. It didn’t get any higher for him than on July 12, when he tossed a six-inning rain-shortened no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. The losing Yankee pitcher that game was Andy Hawkins, who, less than two weeks earlier, lost a game in which he tossed a no-hitter but four White Sox unearned runs scored on the 80th anniversary of the first ever game at Comiskey Park.

1991 was a disappointing year for Perez; after eight rough starts (4.82 ERA) he was demoted to the bullpen. To make matters worse, on Sept. 4 (the four-year anniversary of his MLB debut), his no-hitter was taken away from him. Commissioner Fay Vincent and a committee for statistical accuracy declared official no-hitters to be a minimum of nine innings (Roger Maris was also declared to be the single season home run champion, no ifs ands or asterisks about it).

Melido’s brother, Pascual, was also stripped of a no-hitter, as the elder Perez tossed a shortened no-no in 1988. The silver lining for Melido, who asked to be traded after his demotion, was that he pitched really well out of the Sox ‘pen in 1991, putting up a 2.22 ERA in 41 games of middle relief.

After the 1991 season, Perez was finally traded. The Yankees agreed to a deal, changed their mind and finally, on January 10, the trade was on again. Perez, Domingo Jean and Bob Wickman were off to the Bronx in exchange for Steve Sax and cash. Perez paid immediate dividends in the Big Apple; his 13-16 record didn’t tell the story. His 2.87 ERA was excellent, and with 218 punchouts, he delivered the first 200-strikeout season by a Yankee since Ron Guidry in 1979.

Perez's 218 were the most by a Yankee right-hander since Jack Chesbro, who went 41-12 with 239 strikeouts in 1904.

Perez never repeated his 1992 brilliance. He went 6-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 1993 before undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of the year. In 1994, he was 9-4 with a 4.10 ERA but his season was snuffed out by the strike. He was 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA in an injury-riddled 1995 and had to undergo another surgery in 1996. When he returned, it was in the minors and he hit free agency for 1997. He went to spring training with the Indians in 1998 but never made it back to the majors. He threw his last major league pitch before he turned 30.

Melido Perez showed top of the rotation stuff at times but never fully reached his potential. That being said, he put together a solid major league career. In nine seasons he had 78 wins, a 4.17 ERA in over 1,300 innings with 1,092 strikeouts. He had ten career games of ten or more strikeouts, five each with the White Sox and Yankees.

Perez returned to the White Sox organization as pitching coach for Dominican Summer League White Sox in 2009-10.

Pascual, Melido and Carlos Perez are one of 20 sets of three or more brothers all to play in the major leagues. Tragically, Pascual was murdered in his San Gregorio de Nigua, Dominican Republic home during a home invasion on Nov. 1, 2012. By that time Melido, was Mayor of San Gregorio de Nigua, which is east of San Cristobal.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: 'The only a------ that wasn't tight was El Duque's'

White Sox 2005 Rewind: 'The only a------ that wasn't tight was El Duque's'

Bases loaded. Nobody out. And the White Sox held the slimmest of leads, 4-3, in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS.

And who did Ozzie Guillen turn to?

Cliff Politte, an ace reliever who posted a 2.00 ERA during the regular season? Or Neal Cotts, who was even more effective, with a 1.94 ERA? Or even Dustin Hermanson, who closed out so many nail-biters before being replaced with fireballing rookie Bobby Jenks, and his 2.04 ERA?

No, Guillen went with the former fifth starter who was jettisoned from the rotation weeks earlier, a guy who had a 5.12 ERA during the regular season.

Enter: El Duque.

Orlando Hernandez didn’t put up the kind of regular-season numbers that would typically warrant his manager’s utmost confidence in the season’s most critical moment. But he had been in this position before.

During an illustrious tenure with the Yankees, Hernandez pitched in six postseasons in seven years, winning three World Series rings, logging more than 100 playoff innings and bringing a 2.65 ERA playoff ERA into this least enviable of situations that night at Fenway Park.

Guillen opted for playoff experience over regular-season results. And boy, did it work.

“There’s 45,000 people in the stands with tight a-------,” White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper told Our Chuck Garfien years later in an NBC Sports Chicago interview. “Every fan’s got the tight a------. Every coach, every player’s got the tight a------.

“The only a------ that wasn’t tight was El Duque’s.”

RELATED: White Sox 2005 Rewind: With a little help from old friend Tony Graffanino

Hernandez did the impossible, and he did it in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. With Fenway in a frenzy, he got Jason Varitek to pop out, coaxed the same result from Tony Graffanino to close out a 10-pitch at-bat and struck out Johnny Damon on a check swing to finish a seven-pitch at-bat, the latter two both going to full counts.

It was an escape act of epic proportions, one that carved El Duque into White Sox history and chiseled him into the statue that stands outside Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Tremendous inning under the highest amount of pressure that you can have as a baseball player,” Cooper said. “What’s worse? Bases loaded, nobody out in a playoff game. The stadium’s packed, and the whole world is watching the game. And he came through.

“The most important inning in White Sox history? Is it fair to say? I think so.”

Considering what followed, that might strike some as a tad hyperbolic. After all, if the White Sox coughed up that narrow lead in the sixth inning of Game 3, they still had three more innings to stage a comeback attempt. Even if they lost Game 3, they had two more games to win the series. And there were two more rounds of playoffs standing between a series win in Boston and ending an 88-year championship drought.

But Cooper’s right.

This entire postseason run was full of unforgettable moments. Tadahito Iguchi hit a go-ahead three-run homer two days before El Duque’s heroics. In the next round, A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed and ran to first base to turn the ALCS on its head. In the World Series, Paul Konerko, Scott Podsednik and Geoff Blum hit home runs permanently etched into the collective memory of the South Side.

But those were single swings of the bat. Hernandez had to grit through three at-bats when any slip up would have meant a tie game or worse. With nobody out, an early mistake could have snowballed into a huge inning for the Red Sox.

Not only did Hernandez escape the sixth inning. He pitched the seventh and eight, too. All in all, he retired nine of 10 batters, striking out four of them over those three innings. All with only a one-run lead. It doesn’t get any more clutch than that.

“He’s probably got the most heart of any pitcher I’ve ever been around,” Konerko told ESPN’s Erin Andrews after the game.

And why was he the guy to do it? Because he’d been there before.

He just wanted to make sure he didn’t have to be there again.

“(After the game), Duque comes over to me and says, ‘Cooper, one thing I’ll tell you. It’s OK next time if you bring me in with one guy on base. It’s even OK if you bring me in with two guys on base. But no more with three!’”

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 1 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago.

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MLB The Show: White Sox celebrate Memorial Day with 6-4 win over Orioles

MLB The Show: White Sox celebrate Memorial Day with 6-4 win over Orioles

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: White Sox def. Orioles, 6-4

Record: 25-29, 3rd in A.L. Central (5.0 GB of Twins)

W: Reynaldo Lopez (5-2)
L: Asher Wojciechowski (1-6)
SV: Alex Colome (8)

Game summary: Monday’s Memorial Day matchup between the White Sox and Orioles was one of two teams going in opposite directions. The White Sox are red hot with a six-game winning streak, while the O’s were riding a nine-game losing skid.

The White Sox set off the fireworks early with a leadoff home run from Edwin Encarnacion, his 16th of the season. Two batters later, Yoan Moncada homered for the 10th time this season, becoming the sixth White Sox hitter with double-digit long balls on the season. 

Encarnacion continued his run production in the fourth, driving in Luis Robert with a RBI single to left field to give the Sox a 3-1 lead. The offense didn’t skip a frame, scoring two in the fifth behind a Jose Abreu sacrifice fly and a Tim Anderson RBI single to give the Sox a four-run advantage.

The following inning, Eloy Jimenez joined the power production with his 20th homer of the season, tied for league lead with Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 2-5, HR, 2 RBI (.314 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 1-5, HR, RBI (.268 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 2-5, HR, RBI (.261 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 2-5, 2B (.252 BA)
Jose Abreu: 1-4, RBI (.308 BA)
Tim Anderson: 2-4, RBI, 2B (.300 BA)
Luis Robert: 0-3, BB (.237 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 2-4, 2 2B (.299 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 1-4 (.244 BA)

Scoring summary:

Top first:

Edwin Encarnacion homered to center field. 1-0 CHW.
Yoan Moncada homered to right field. 2-0 CHW.

Bottom second:

Renato Nunez homered to left field. 2-1 CHW.

Top fourth:

Encarnacion singled to left field, Luis Robert scored. 3-1 CHW.

Top fifth:

Jose Abreu sacrifice fly to center field, Moncada scored. 4-1 CHW.
Tim Anderson singled to center field, Nick Madrigal scored. 5-1 CHW.

Top sixth:

Eloy Jimenez homered to left field. 6-1 CHW.

Bottom seventh:

Austin Hays doubled to right field, Trey Mancini scored. 6-2 CHW.

Bottom ninth:

Ramon Urias doubled to right field, D.J. Stewart and Hays scored. 6-4 CHW.

Notable performance: Reynaldo Lopez continues to pitch well, leading the White Sox with five wins on the season. He went 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven Baltimore batters and only allowing two earned runs. 

Next game: Tuesday, May 26 - Game 55: White Sox at Orioles (Michael Kopech, 0-0, 2.13 ERA vs Keegan Akin, 2-3, 4.44 ERA)

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