Right-hander Ryan Perry was pleased with his season and the progress he made, moving from reliever to starter, trying to become a pitcher instead of just a thrower.
He not only was able to find success at his new job with Double-A Harrisburg, but also received an invitation to pitch in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
His season wrapped up with the starting pitching spot in the Arizona Fall League title game, and although he did not go out the way he wanted, he still was happy with where he is now as spring training 2013 is next up in February.
"It went well," Perry said. "I had my ups and my downs, but I enjoyed it. It was a great league and great competition, having some of the best from every team. There really wasn't a weakness in any lineup."
Perry was excited to pitch in the AFL because it was in the state he went to college, at the University of Arizona. The AFL allowed Perry to continue to work on his rhythm, which he had to find again with so much time away from pitching in a starting role.
"Before, for years, I would just rear back and throw," Perry said. "I had this 'throw the fastball by you' kind of mentality. You kind of read hitters and see what they do and how they are biting. You've got to read that and then set up for the next pitch.
"I tried to stay down in the zone and hit my location. I wasn't worried too much with velocity. I wanted to get that flow going again, I feel like that is something I lost over the years, just that rhythm in my mechanics and definitely work on getting that back."
Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart provided a great reference point on what he needed to focus on as a starter instead of reliever.
"He got me on a good track and going really well," Perry said. "I haven't felt that fluid and smooth in years."
Perry throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball sinker, changeup, slider and cutter. Working on all his pitches, he started to get a good feel for his changeup, which really is a specialty when working with Menhart.
"In the past, I was more fastball, slider, and now I am throwing my changeup more now," Perry said. "I feel like my changeup is a better pitch than my slider, I am more consistent with it and it is getting more depth. I am really looking forward to throwing that a lot more in spring training. I mix in some cutters to keep guys off balance."
But Perry is also working on getting his slider from riding up in the zone and doing what it is supposed to do.
"The curveball and slider are the ones I have been having the most problems with now, keeping them down in the zone," Perry said. "I am looking for quick outs, preferably on the ground, make them earn everything. I am not trying to miss bats because I don't want my pitch count to go up. That way, I can go deeper into games and hopefully save the bullpen."
Bottom line, Perry knows where his focus will be come February.
"I want to figure out that feel of throwing a good slider," Perry said. "I have been throwing it out front. I don't want to do it too early and it just rolls off, so that has always been a problem of mine with that pitch. The cutter is something I developed this year since I became a starter and I have had pretty good success with it so far."
Perry certainly had a tumultuous season, from beginning with the Nationals to 11 games with Triple-A Syracuse to then being placed in the minors and given a new job description. The extra games in Arizona helped him extend a season in which he pretty much reinvented himself as a professional pitcher.
"I am really excited that I got this many innings under my belt," Perry said. "I was definitely feeling the fatigue in the Fall League. It is going to be huge opportunity for me next year. I am really planning on taking every advantage of it."
And if you have ever seen Perry's arms up close, he has some of the most impressive tattoos on the ballclub. There is work to do there, too. Perry said his favorites are his Abraham Lincoln tattoo and the baseball one on his hand. That tattoo gets the most attention and the most compliments.
"Technically, both my arms aren't finished," Perry said. "So I could finish those. But I am not looking to get anything else right now."
There is also unfinished business for Perry on the mound. And he is eager to get going in 2013.