VIERA, Fla. - One look at Ryan Perry’s arms tells you the relief pitcher isn’t afraid to share his point of view. Each arm is covered in a sleeve of tattoos, and the intricate work on the baseball-themed ink on his left arm is the newest addition. It was done this winter by Glendale, Ariz., tattoo artist Justin Kramer in three separate sessions that each required seven to eight hours to complete.
“Everything’s intertwined in baseball,” said Perry, who was acquired from the Tigers in December in exchange for right-hander Collin Balester.
The left arm is a roadmap of the cities Perry has visited as a major leaguer, with images of well-known landmarks - the Hollywood sign for Los Angeles, the New York City skyline, the St. Louis arch, the Lincoln Memorial for D.C., the Babe Ruth statue outside of Camden Yards in Baltimore - resting along red baseball stitches. The stitches pull apart at his bicep to reveal accurately drawn muscles that would rest beneath the skin, and on the back of his left hand, near the wrist, is a take on Major League Baseball’s shadowed batter logo, only this time with a skeleton wielding some lumber.
The skeleton is a favorite subject for Perry, and appears elsewhere in some of the landmarks. On his right arm, done a couple of years ago by Avondale, Ariz., artist Jason Allen, are a series of images that also have extremely personal meanings: a blackjack hand with the number 21 representing his selection with the 21st pick in the 2008 draft; images referring to a clothing line he and a friend tried to start; and a female mummy that is one of the artist’s signature creations.
While the ink is permanent, Perry’s arrival in the Nationals’ spring camp represents a new beginning for a pitcher who once seemed on a fast track to being a major league closer. Perry reached the bigs quickly, posting a 3.79 ERA as a 22-year-old in 2009, but never seemed to get over the hump and into the back end of ballgames. Last year, the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder got pounded for a 5.35 ERA and 1.622 WHIP in 36 games, raising his career ERA to 4.07.
Though high expectations were placed on Perry almost immediately, he said that wasn’t the problem for his struggles.
“The problem was that my pitching coach started throwing too many things at me,” Perry said. “I started working on one thing and the next day, I’m trying to work on that same thing and he’s throwing something else at me. My mechanics got all out of whack. I had to go back and look at footage of the last two years and my last year of college and I noticed a huge difference. I started losing confidence in myself and my ability.”
So he welcomed the trade that sent him from Motown to D.C. The Nationals’ pitching coaches have been working hard to help Perry erase the negativity he said he encountered in Detroit.
“Working with someone, you got to give them something and give them a couple of days to work on that specifically. Then you go on to something else once they’ve mastered that,” he said. “I felt like I was bombarded with way too many things. They tried to get me way too perfect way too fast. It ended up not working.”
The Nationals made the trade to rid themselves of Collin Balester, a pitcher who was out of minor league options and wouldn’t have had a chance to make the 25-man roster. Perry has an option left and will likely start the season at Triple-A Syracuse. Even though he’s probably ticketed for the minors, Perry is eager to start rebuilding his shaken confidence.
“It can come with just a single good outing, throwing a good bullpen. You can gain confidence from anything you do,” he said. “A change of scenery is always nice. Just to work with different coaches, get a different perspective on things, hear different things. It could help me, and it might not, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”