If you thought that was a familiar face you saw in the Chicago White Sox dugout Thursday night, it was. And you’ll be able to see it all weekend long, as J.R. Perdew is in Baltimore and in uniform for the White Sox’s four-game series with the Orioles that began last night at Camden Yards.
Perdew, the pitching coach for the White Sox’s Class A Carolina League Winston-Salem Dash the past two seasons, has worked from the Advanced Rookie to Double-A levels through his 17 seasons in the Sox organization, and is considered to be an exceptional teacher, particularly by the man who not only hired Perdew, but who invited him to Baltimore for the series.
“I was talking to Don Cooper, our big league pitching coach one night,” said the Fort Hill High and Frostburg State University graduate, “and he just asked me, ‘If you don’t make the playoffs, we’re in Baltimore then. Come on down,’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ It was really that simple. He said, ‘I would like for you to sit in the dugout with me.’
“It’s a reward kind of thing the organization has always done; and it’s a learning thing too. Guys we’ve had are in the big leagues, so I’ll get to see them.”
Two of Perdew’s former Dash pitchers — right-handers Erik Johnson and Daniel Webb, as well as catcher Miguel Gonzalez — were called up to the White Sox on Sept. 3. In addition, catcher Josh Phegley and pitchers Charlie Leesman, Jake Petricka and Andre Rienzo have debuted for the White Sox.
“Four others were called up last year and five more the year before,” said Perdew, “so it’ll be kind of cool to see them.”
The Dash finished 71-69 overall this season, but came up short for the postseason. Right-hander Myles Jaye, though, was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week for the final week of the regular season.
“I just got home, unpacked and I’m taking off again,” Perdew said Thursday afternoon while on his way to Baltimore for what will be a one-series gig. The White Sox asked Perdew if he cared to travel with the big-league club, “but we’re moving into a new house,” he said. “It would have been tough to do. But this is a nice thing to be able to go to Baltimore and hang out there.”
As for what he will be doing this weekend, the former Allegany College player and pitching coach said, “Just observe, really. I’m just going to hang out, stay out of everybody’s way and out of trouble.”
Six years after pitching the Allegany Trojans to the 1984 NJCAA World Series, Perdew served as Coach Steve Bazarnic’s pitching coach from 1990 to ’96. He was hired by Cooper, the White Sox Minor League pitching coordinator in 1997, and has since coached for the Bristol Sox (1997-98), Burlington (Iowa) Bees (1999-2000), Kannapolis Intimidators (2001, 2005), Winston-Salem Warthogs (2002-04; 2006-07), Birmingham Barons (2008-2011) and again for Winston-Salem, now the Dash, the past two seasons.
In 2012 Perdew was named a coach for the Carolina League All-Star team, and prior to this season the White Sox considered him for the then-vacant bullpen coach position with the big club, but instead hired Bobby Thigpen, the club’s all-time leader in saves. The White Sox brass, however, recognizes Perdew’s ability to effectively work with multiple pitchers with different skills.
By his last count Perdew has coached 120 White Sox pitchers, including All-Star Mark Buehrle, who has pitched two no-hitters, including the 18th perfect game in MLB history in 2009, and 14 catchers who have played in the major leagues.
“We kind of take pride in our catchers in the minors,” he said, “because we work so closely with them along with our pitchers.”
While the White Sox have invited Perdew to be a September call-up, the former right-hander said he reads nothing more into it as far as future organizational plans are concerned.
“No, this is just a case of my having been in the organization for a long time, and they must think I do a good job and wanted me to be around,” Perdew said.
If he is asked by Cooper or Manager Robin Ventura to pitch in, however, Perdew will know what to do.
“In spring training I do this all the time,” he said. “They’ll bring me over to the big-league camp and I’ll work with all the pitchers on pick-off moves, fielding bunts, things like that. The next day I’ll be coaching with the big club in a game.
“I ran the pitching in a game for (former Manager Ozzie Guillen) and all the big league coaches and players. They just used my minor league staff. It’s kind of like at Fort Hill — the freshman and jayvee coaches get a chance to sit in on the Homecoming Game. That’s all it is.”
That’s not all it is by any stretch. The White Sox inviting Perdew to Baltimore for this weekend series is a show of gratitude and respect for the job he has done developing major league pitchers for the past 17 years. And though he we won’t admit that, Perdew does admit it’s given him a good feeling about being in the organization.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s a very nice gesture. It’s nice of them to allow me to be with them; it’s a great thing, and I feel good about it. I’m kind of looking at it as a good experience. I’ll learn as much as I can while I’m here.
“Don Cooper is the man who hired me when he was the minor league pitching coordinator, so it means a lot to me that he would extend this invitation. Between Coop and Leo (Mazzone), they’ve been my mentors.”
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com