WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Looking in to read catcher Victor Martinez's signs from his shortstop position, all Jhonny Peralta could see was a fuzzy blur. It was at that point, in the last month of the 2006 season, that Peralta knew it might be time to pop in some contact lenses. "I could feel it for myself," Peralta said Tuesday. "I didn't see the ball very good and, when I was playing shortstop, I couldn't see the signs at home plate. I knew I had a problem with my eyes."
Peralta was right. He had been diagnosed with myopia (near-sightedness) earlier in the year, but he opted not to wear the contacts given to him, because he didn't like the way they felt in his eyes. For the last two weeks of the season, however, he began wearing the lenses, and his performance at that tail end of a difficult year drew praise from manager Eric Wedge. It's too soon to tell whether Peralta's improvement was a direct result of the vision correction or just the lessons of a long '06 season finally sinking in. But Peralta, taking no chances, had LASIK surgery performed on his eyes in December to have them permanently corrected. "I tried to use the contacts, but it was too hard for me," Peralta said. "This is much better." Being able to read a catcher's signs is pivotal for a shortstop's success in the field, because it helps him anticipate what's coming and where he should position himself. For Peralta, those signs became a hazy mystery as the '06 season wore on, and it certainly showed in his performance. He was often criticized by Wedge for not getting to balls he should have. Now, as the Indians prepare for the '07 season, Peralta, who reported to Spring Training on Tuesday, is under particular scrutiny. The Tribe's only legitimate roster decision in camp will be the utility infielder's job, and that player is expected to be particularly adept at short, in order to back up Peralta. Peralta and utility infield candidates Hector Luna, Luis Rivas, Joe Inglett, Keith Ginter and Mike Rouse were all put through some defensive drills on Tuesday morning, and Wedge was encouraged by Peralta's first day. "I was very pleased with what I saw from him, action-wise and moving around," Wedge said. "He's stronger. Physically, fundamentally and mentally -- he's worked all three areas. It should help him with his overall game." Despite the inconvenience of dropping the contacts into his eyes, Peralta feels that his improved vision helped him in both phases of the game last September. During the Tribe's season-ending, seven-game homestand, Peralta coupled a stronger performance in the field with a .348 average and four RBIs at the plate. "I could see everything better," he said. "The last week, I feel I hit the ball good and everything. We'll see if this [surgery] can help a little bit, too." Slow Trot, for now: Former Red Sox hitting coach Dwight Evans once gave Trot Nixon a great line about an important trait that ballplayers must possess. "I want patience," said Evans, "and I want it right now."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.