CLEVELAND -- Indians closer Chris Perez knows exactly where he was on May 6, 1998. He was 12 years old and parked in front of a television, watching Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood fashion one of the best performances in baseball history.
Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros hitters that afternoon, and Perez saw every pitch. As fate would have it, Wood and Perez wound up teammates in the Indians' bullpen for parts of two seaons in 2009-10. On Friday, Perez spoke highly of Wood in the wake of the news that the Cubs pitcher has decided to retire.
"I always ribbed him about that," Perez said of Wood's 20-strikeout game 14 years ago. "He's been playing since I was 12. I remember it exactly. I got out of school early to get shots. I got my shots, came home and there was only an hour left at school. My dad let me stay home, and WGN was on and Kerry Wood [was pitching].
"Obviously, I didn't know I was in store for 20 strikeouts, but I watched the whole game. It was fun to watch. That's when he made his name. To be in that same bullpen when he was here, it was kind of cool."
Wood was Cleveland's closer in 2009, when Perez joined the Tribe in a mid-season trade with the Cardinals. In 2010, Wood began the season as the Indians' stopper, but Perez moved into that role later in the summer. In the time since, Perez has developed into an All-Star closer for Cleveland.
Perez said he learned a lot from Wood in their time together as teammates.
"[I learned] how to be accountable," Perez said. "He didn't have the best time while he was here. He didn't pitch as good as he wanted to, but he always stood up to me. He put in the same effort every day. It didn't matter if he was going on a good streak or a bad streak.
"It didn't matter how he was pitching or what he did that night. He was always a good teammate, which is important in this game."