ST. LOUIS -- During batting practice before Friday's game against the Cardinals, Chris Perez and a handful of St. Louis players gathered in shallow left field, chatting and laughing while hard-hit liners zoomed by.
Perez made a lot of close friends during his four years in the Cardinals' Minor League system -- including closer Jason Motte, reliever Mitchell Boggs and outfielder Jon Jay, who also played with Perez at the University of Miami.
"It's just like old times," Perez said. "I haven't seen them for a couple years, but it was just like old times back in our bullpen in [Double-A] Springfield. We were really close since I played here. It's just good seeing old friends."
Perez appeared in 70 games for the Cardinals from 2008-09 before he was traded to Cleveland. He and Motte were sharing closer duties in St. Louis, and the Cardinals ultimately chose Motte to be their regular guy.
Perez didn't see eye-to-eye with members of the Cardinals' staff -- including former manager Tony La Russa. But as he's gone on to enjoy success in Cleveland, Perez sees that conflict as a part of the past.
"I totally respect [La Russa]. He's one of the best managers in the history of the game. I understand that," Perez said. "Every day he brought it, like no other. Playing here and going somewhere else, you see the difference. No hard feelings, I just think it could have been handled differently."
Perez said he was glad to be let go in 2009, and wasn't surprised by the move. He said he was born to be a closer, and is happy to be flourishing in that role in Cleveland.
"It's worked out. Whenever I was over [here in St. Louis], I was a young guy trying to make a name for myself in some pretty difficult roles," Perez said. "Like I said, I was young, I trusted my abilities and stuff but I didn't know how to be a big league pitcher. But now, I've grown up, couple things off the field, I had a kid and am a father now. It's just a natural progression, I'm a veteran now."