The Atlanta Braves family lost a member Thursday when Odalis Perez died after suffering a heart attack at his home in the Dominican Republic.
Atlanta signed Perez as a 16-year–old international free agent in1994. He progressed quickly through the minors, working as both a starter and in relief where consistently high strikeout numbers kept him on the fast track.
Three years after his first minor league game, Perez broke camp as a member of the rotation with AA Greenville. After 23 appearances with Greenville, the Braves promoted Perez to AAA Richmond and rewarded him with a call-up to the majors in September.
Perez broke camp with the Atlanta Braves in 2009 as Baseball America’s number 31 prospect (subscription required). Unfortunately, a season-ending UCL injury after 24 games was the precursor of an injury-plagued career.
The return and the trade
Perez returned to the Atlanta Braves rotation to start 2001, 15 months after his surgery, and pitched well for Atlanta until injury forced him to the sidelines in August. He returned on September first and finished the year working from the bullpen.
In January of 2002, the Atlanta Braves sent Perez to the Dodgers as part of the deal to acquire potential Hall of Famer Gary Sheffield. Perez made the deal look good, pitching to a 3.00 ERA in LA, throwing a one-hitter against the Rockies in June, and earning an All-Star Game nod.
Perez worked mainly as a starter for the Dodgers over the next four and one-half seasons and, despite recurring shoulder injuries, threw 772 innings of 3.94 ERA baseball.
The Dodgers traded Perez to Kansas City at the deadline in 2006, but shoulder and knee injuries hampered his effectiveness and the club non-tendered him after the 2007 season.
Perez signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, made the team out of camp, and earned the start for the home-opener at Washington’s new ballpark.
He made 30 starts for the club in 2008, but they non-tendered him after the season; the 30-year-old lefty never returned to the majors.
That’s a wrap.
The Atlanta Braves found and groomed Perez, who had the stuff to become a quality Major League starter. Unfortunately, injuries ended his career far too soon.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and three children.