It has been said that the best way to improve yourself is to choose good role models. Ask Orlando Perdomo who he loves to watch, and very quickly he will mention these three names: Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Mariano Rivera. That's a pretty impressive list. Probe a little deeper and he says that he loves the control and wind-up of Clemens, the aggressiveness of Pedro, and how calm Mariano is before each pitch. What would the result be of combining the approaches of all three? According to Orlando, it's him, and so far it seems to be hard to argue with. He's pitching lights out in the ninth inning for the West Michigan Whitecaps, and leading the Midwest League in saves with eight.
The right-hander began his career as a Tiger in the Dominican Summer League in 2002, signed as a non-drafted free agent. A native Venezuelan, Orlando got his first taste of baseball in the US with the Gulf Coast League Tigers in 2004. He served primarily as a starter that first year with the GCL Tigers and flashed moments of potential. It wasn't until this last year, however, that he finally tapped into that potential fully. Converted to a closer part way through the season last year, he turned into a completely different pitcher – 11 1/3 innings, no runs, and 17 strikeouts. .
It's not an easy transition, from starter to closer, but Orlando has made it look effortless so far. "I closed last year [with the GCL Tigers] and it was an adjustment, but not too difficult," he said. He thinks the most difficult adjustment he had to make was in how he gets warmed up. He uses his imagination, putting himself on the mound in various situations with batters from both sides of the plate, instead of just making sure he is comfortable with his pitches. The results so far this year have are hard to argue with – 8 saves in 9 attempts, 13 strikeouts to 3 walks, and only one bad outing in which he allowed two runs.
Not everything comes as easy as closing, however. English is sometimes a struggle for Perdomo, as it is his second language, but he seems to be a quick learner. "Sometimes I have a little problem [communicating], but I hear [English] everyday; I listen to the radio, read my dictionary, and watch TV." There were only a few times that he struggled for words in our interview, looking to a teammate for help, and for the most part he speaks well enough to get his point across and that's all that is needed these days. If you let your game speak for itself, language isn't really that big of an issue.
As if that weren't enough, he also knows that he may not be going home to Venezuela for quite some time. "It depends on if they want me to play instructional ball or not, or what else they want me to do." Playing baseball over a thousand miles away from home, it's hard to imagine that it's not difficult for the 21 year-old. If it is, he doesn't show it. He just comes out of the 'pen when he's motioned for and does his job. For someone as young as him, to understand that he doesn't control his future is something that should be accepted quickly. According to him, only God and the Tigers now what is in store for him at the end of the season.
With a plus fastball coming in around 93 mph and a devastating splitter, Orlando is having no trouble blowing through hitters. Even with the one poor outing, Orlando has had a monster April, opening eyes all around the league. Scouts and fans have taken notice, and it's hard to imagine that if he continues to pitch as well as he has been that hitters all around the league will have to take notice. And with role models like Clemens, Martinez and Rivera, who needs coaches?