Six years ago, on the night before baseball's first-year player draft, Chris Perez barely mustered any sleep.
He was in the midst of wrapping his junior year at the University of Miami, but there was talk someone would choose the Holmes Beach native and IMG alum with an early draft pick.
The following day, the St. Louis Cardinals made Perez the 42nd overall selection. Perez signed a professional contract roughly three weeks later.
And Wednesday night, inside the plush visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field, Perez sipped on a sports drink while lounging on a leather couch.
Assume he's comfortable, and you assume right.
"I'm doing what I'm supposed to, doing what I got drafted to do," Perez said. "I've had a lucky run, not getting hurt and stuff. I progressed through the minors first, broke in, learned to pitch up here and they kind of gave me my spot."
A lot has changed since the Cardinals called Perez's name in early of June 2006. For one, he's not a Cardinal anymore. St. Louis dealt him to the Cleveland Indians in June 2009 for infielder Mark DeRosa.
Perez became Cleveland's temporary closer the following spring after Kerry Wood suffered a back injury. And when the Indians shipped Wood to the New York Yankees later that summer, they turned to Perez as Wood's permanent replacement.
Two All-Star appearances and 86 saves later, it's safe to say the move worked well.
"He's been doing for it a long time," said Indians reliever Jeremy Accardo. "It's a done deal almost
every time he gets out there."
Though it may have been jarring at the time, Perez looks at the trade as a blessing. A closer throughout college, Perez recorded eight saves in 70 appearances for St. Louis and just one in '09.
The Cardinals drafted him, signed him and developed him. What they wouldn't give him, however, was an opportunity.
"I was excited at the time, because I wasn't pitching when I wanted to," Perez said. "I was kind of the last guy on the staff, and I knew I was better than that, and they just wouldn't give me a chance. I was happy to get over here where somebody wanted me and was going to throw me consistently.
"Change is sometimes hard at first It's been good. The first couple of weeks and months, I missed all my friends over there, and was still trying to fit in with a new team that's been together for five or six months. It's hard."
Trading for Perez was just one piece of a massive overhaul the Indians engineered that summer, when they parted ways with established players such as Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee for young talent such as Justin Masterson and Lou Marson, and drafted second baseman Jason Kipnis with their second-round pick.
Consequently, they won 80 games last year and began Wednesday four games behind Chicago in the American League Central and a half-game out of the second wild-card spot. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday after Perez, who lives in Tampa, caught Hideki Matsui looking at a filthy backdoor slider.
"We're going to have to get hot. We've been like this all year -- a couple of games over .500. We've never gone under We can't get on a long streak, but we need to," Perez said. "We're right there. It's there for the taking. We've faced everybody, and everybody's got their flaws.
"Nobody's really pulling away with it, so we're trying to patch together a good month."
The Indians' most steadying force has been their bullpen, which is tied for first in the American League in save percentage (85) and fourth in saves (28). Anchoring that unit is Perez, who has converted 26 of 28 save chances.
"If you're just kind of a little hesitant, (hitters) can jump on you," Accardo said. "He doesn't have a bit of hesitancy. He goes and gets them right from the get-go."
Perez is grateful the Indians gave him a chance to do it.
"Getting traded here helped. I had a tremendous opportunity so much earlier than if I would have stayed in St. Louis," he said. "It's been good. Every year I've been learning stuff, and I'm always trying to get better. You can always improve. But it's been fun."