Q&A: Justin Masterson and Chris Perez

Justin Masterson and Chris Perez are having success against American League hitters — Masterson is 5-2, 2.52; Perez has 10 saves — but what would happen if they went up against a lineup of Indians legends? How would they pitch to the likes of Napoleon Lajoie and Rocky Colavito? The Cleveland right-handers tackled that question head on, often with tongues firmly in cheek, prior to a recent game.


David Laurila: Shoeless Joe Jackson is playing left field and leading off. How do you go after him?

Justin Masterson: I’d probably start out by throwing a sinker at his feet, to get his feet moving and maybe rough up his non-shoed soles. That would get him a little uncomfortable in the box. From there, it’s hard for him to dig in, so I don’t have to worry about brushing him back; I’d just go with heaters away.

Chris Perez: He didn’t wear shoes and he was fast. That’s what I think, so he’s going to be a little slap hitter. I’m going to throw him hard and in and make him beat me by pulling it down the line. If he works the count and gets deep, I’m going to throw a slider low and away. I’m picturing Ichiro. I actually didn’t know he played for the Indians. I thought he just played for the White Sox.

DL: Rick Manning is in center and hitting second. He’s in the lineup because Tris Speaker is out with an injury.

Masterson: I figure that Rick Manning, back in the day when he was playing, had talking into the microphone in his head, so I’m going to bring out the microphone pitch. I’m going to throw a little deke at him. I’m going to underhand a microphone and he’s going to see it and think, “Oh, microphone; I need to talk into this.” Then I’m going to bust heaters right by him, straight Bug Bunny style: whap, whap, whap, three in a row. He’ll be standing there hearing the umpire go, “You’re out of here!”

Perez: I’d rather face Rick Manning than Tris Speaker, because obviously the longer you’ve been away from the game, the better you were. He’s had a long time in the booth, so he’s probably really good in his mind, but Speaker is in the Hall of Fame, so he’s legitimate. He got voted in by the sportswriters!

DL: Second baseman Napoleon Lajoie is hitting third.

Masterson: Napoleon Lajoie. Wow! Napoleon sounds French, and if he’s like any of the other Napoleons I know, he’s short. I’ll have to bear down and make sure I make some solid pitches in the zone. I’ll be hoping that he’s not looking too much and will be swinging at some pitches, and maybe I can expand the zone on him.

Perez: He does sound French, so he’s probably passive. I’m picturing an Oakland A’s type of guy, a Moneyball guy who works the count and tries to get on base. On 2-0 he’s going to take; on 3-1 he’s going to take. I’m going to go right after him. He was a good hitter in his day, but I think he might have been a split-grip guy, so it’s going to be hard for him to reach my slider.

DL: Rocky Colavito is in right field and batting cleanup.

Masterson: You hear the name Rocky and it’s just a loud-and-proud name. I might pitch around him. Maybe I’ll intentionally walk him. I figure I’m going to give up at least one hit in the first inning, so he’s going to come up with a guy on base. I’ll walk him and go after the next guy.

Perez: With a name like Rocky Colavito, it sounds like he has no batting gloves and is right on the dish. He’s a first-ball swinger for sure. I’m going to give him a brush-back pitch to start out. Then I’ll see where he’s at, if he’s going to dig right back in there. But with a name like Rocky, I’m expecting a battle. He might be one of those guys where I make my pitch and if he swings at it, good. If he doesn’t, I’ll walk him, just like Justin said.

DL: Up next is first baseman Jim Thome.

Masterson: Oh, Jim-Jim. I love Jim Thome. Man, nicest guy around. But that doesn’t matter to me once you get out on the field and we’re playing the game. I’m going right after him. I’m going to see what his country strength can do. I mean, he’s shown that he can hit the ball a long way, but I’m going to come in. I’m going challenge him in, challenge him away. I’m going to move him around to help out my closer later in the game.

Perez: Depending on how the Rocky Colavito at bat goes…you know, Jim Thome is like Paul Bunyan up there. If there are men on base he’s going to be more aggressive, so I’ll try to get him to chase a fastball out of the zone; he likes to hit fastballs. But if there is nobody on and nobody out, and I have a two-run cushion, it’s going to be fun. I’m going to challenge him and see how far he can hit it.

DL: Batting sixth is the DH, Andre Thornton.

Masterson: Big Andre! Another quality individual that I like. When I look at him…he looks like a football guy. It’s like he was misplaced and came to baseball. He’s a little scary, so I’m going to try not to hit him. I’m a big guy, but I don’t want him to charge the mound on me, even though he has a good heart. I’ll probably stay away from him. Of course, with my sinker I have to go in, but I’d mix and match and maybe flip a few sliders away. I’d give my bullpen a sight of what he can do.

DL: Chris, you don’t get to face Thornton. Hal Trosky is going to pinch hit for him.

Perez: I’m not familiar with his work, but if he’s going to pinch hit for Thornton he’s probably a lefty. Is he a lefty? And Thornton is a bigger guy, so maybe Trosky is a different type of hitter? Maybe he’s a little slap hitter trying to work the count, much like the Shoeless Joe I’m picturing? I guess I’m going right after him and trying to knock the bat out of his hands. I’ll try to make him hit a home run to left field. That’s what I try to do to those little lefties. There are no secrets late in the game. He’s going to get a lot of hard stuff.

DL: In the seven hole is shortstop Lou Boudreau.

Masterson: Oh, Lou. I love Lou. Good old sweet Lou. You know, when it comes to seven hole…no disrespect, but I’m going to make him show me what he can do. I’m going to bring that sinker in. I’m going to pound that sinker and see if he can hit it.

Perez: I’m calling a time out and asking him if he wants to make a change, because he was also the manager, right? I’m going to say, “Hey, do you really want to dig in or do you want to go to the lefty hitter on the bench?” I’m going to give him that chance, but once I throw that first pitch, he’s in there. And he’s a Hall of Famer, so I’m going to try to get it done early. I’m going to throw a first-pitch strike and then hopefully get him to chase.

DL: Al Rosen is playing third base and hitting eighth.

Masterson: Al Rosen? Oh my goodness. I’m going to give him the rosin ball. Even though he’s Rosen, it sounds like time for a little rosin. I’m going to pound that up. I’m going to put a little poof ball on there, so even if he does happen to hit it, it’s going to blow up. He’s not going to be able to see, and that should give our guys a chance to get him at first.

DL: Chris, Albert Belle is pinch hitting for Rosen against you.

Perez: Joey or Albert? If they announce him as Joey I’m in trouble, because he’s going to hit a home run. Albert, when he was playing…it looked like he never wanted to walk, so I would purposely fall behind. I’d go to 1-0 or 2-0, then throw a heater up above the belt and see if he can get on top of it. Hopefully I’ve got the juice that day and he’s going to pop it up.

DL: Sandy Alomar, Jr. is catching and hitting ninth.

Masterson: Santos. Good old Santos, man. I don’t know. He’s long and lanky and has a lot going on; he likes to go the other way. I’m going to try to see what he can do. I’m going to get him off the plate, maybe move his feet a little bit. I’ll try to get him of his rhythm and go from there.

DL: You get another pinch hitter, Chris. You’re facing Larry Doby, with a chance to close out the game.

Perez: He was the first African-American player in the American League. I’m going to guess that he was a speedster who got on base a lot, so I’d try to get ahead. Or maybe my best plan of action would be to walk him and let my catcher throw him out trying to steal. Depending on who your catcher is, that can be a good plan. Like when the other team has a guy on third, we want them to hit it to [Shin-Soo] Choo, and he’ll throw him out. Same idea.

DL: Meanwhile, Bob Feller is starting against your team. Who has the edge on the mound?

Masterson: Hardest-throwing guy around. There’s no contest; he has the edge. Well, maybe. He doesn’t have the sink I’ve got. He had the heat, though. He brought it better than anybody else.

Perez: Who’s in our lineup? But oh man, I’d have to go with the Hall of Famer, Bob Feller. Rapid Robert. He’s our organization’s greatest pitcher of all time. It would be a good game, though.

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

9 Responses to “Q&A: Justin Masterson and Chris Perez”

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  1. Dscott says:

    I love the fact that Masterson talked about Thome’s country strength. Sure he’s from the mid-west down here, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t work on a farm. I’m from the Peoria area, and Thome went to high school in a suburb of Peoria if Peoria had suburbs. Regardless he does have country strength.

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  2. Bgaw says:

    Awesome interview David.. Really enjoyed the read.

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  3. Phil says:

    Justin Masterson is one of my favorite people in sports. All-around funny guy. Is there a video of this interview? Because he also has an amazing voice.

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  4. isavage30 says:

    The battle between Chris “Pure Rage” Perez and Albert Belle sounds like it would be entertaining

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  5. Metsox says:

    This is high quality.

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  6. Tony says:

    Great interview, some fun and serious stuff all wrapped into one! Go Tribe Go!

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  7. Tom K says:

    Rick Manning??? …. really>

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  8. Bpdelia says:

    Two take aways here, first two funny and knowledgable guys

    Second, the indians can put,together one helluva all time startng 9 huh?

    Small quibble. I liked andre thorton but manny ramirez and albert belle, two of the best rh hitters of the last 50 years are both starting on my all time Indians team.

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