MLB.com Columnist

Jesse Sanchez

Cox endorses Braves coach Perez as future skipper

Former catcher gaining managerial experience at Caribbean Series

Cox endorses Braves coach Perez as future skipper

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- The text from Bobby Cox was just five words, short and sweet as usual.

"Go get that Caribbean trophy," it read.

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Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, who is managing Venezuela's Tigres de Aragua this week at the Caribbean Series, saw the text, pursed his lips and nodded his head. He hears from the Hall of Fame manager at least once a week.

"Bobby Cox means everything to me," Perez said. "He's my mentor. He's always supported me, and I'm doing this for him, too. I want him to be proud of me."

It is Perez's dream to follow in Cox's footsteps and manage in the Major Leagues one day. He knows it probably won't be in Atlanta where his good friend Fredi Gonzalez is at the Braves' helm, but Perez is hopeful he'll get the opportunity somewhere, and he wants to be ready for it.

Perez's Tigres defeated Cuba's Ciego de Avila, 3-1, on Thursday afternoon. The Tigres (3-1) had already qualified for Saturday's semifinals.

"I want to manage one day in the big leagues, but I'm not in a hurry," Perez, 47, said. "I'm good with what I'm doing. I love being the bullpen coach in Atlanta. I live in Atlanta, and I've always said Fredi is going to be there for 40 years. I want to be there with him, because he's a nice guy and I'm learning a lot from him.

"But if the opportunity comes … that's one of the reasons I'm here in the Caribbean Series," Perez continued. "I want to be prepared if I get a shot, so I want to learn."

Perez managed his hometown Aguilas del Zulia team in Venezuela to a 31-32 record during the 2008 season and to a 30-34 mark in 2009. He returned from a four-year hiatus to manage Zulia to a 35-28 record in 2014 and went 31-32 in his first year with the Tigres de Aragua in 2015.

Perez also played 10 seasons for the Tigres and five with Zulia.

"Eddie is really a plus on any team. He would be a plus managing someday," Cox said. "He's still got young kids in high school and the family. He's such a big family guy, and it's hard for him to leave Atlanta right now. But I think in a couple years, he'll be able to do that or whatever. He's Major League managerial material, for sure."

Cox would know. Perez spent nine of his 11 Major League seasons with the Braves, playing for Cox from 1995-2001 and again from 2004-05. He's been a part of the Atlanta coaching staff since Cox put him there in 2007. Perez was Greg Maddux's personal catcher, and he was behind the plate for 121 of the Hall of Famer's starts.

"I learned everything from Bobby," Perez said. "The thing I learned the most from him was how to treat the players. That's what I do the most here. I treat everyone the same and with respect and they respond to that."

Perez was set to return to Zulia for his fourth season as manager this winter when he received a text from another good friend, former Major Leaguer Carlos Guillen, the president of Tigres de Aragua. The Tigres wanted Perez to manage, and it was Guillen's job to convince him to take the job.

"Carlos told me he wanted to be champion, and I knew it was a good chance to win," Perez said. "It was tough, but I made the right decision. Zulia was my hometown for so many years, but I played for the Tigres for 10 years, my first 10 years as a professional. I always wanted to come back, go back to the city that gave me a lot of support to be a big leaguer when I was just a young man, and this was that chance."

Guillen can often be found in the clubhouse and in the dugout chatting with Perez and players before and after games. The former Mariners and Tigers infielder watched Cuba take batting practice before Thursday's game from the third-base coaching box, before returning to the stands and his usual spot on the front row.

"[Perez] played under one of the best managers in the big leagues in Bobby Cox, and he played with [Tom] Glavine, Maddux and all of those winning teams, so he has a lot of experience as a champion," Guillen said. "I wanted him because I've been following the way he managed, and he's one of those managers that bring discipline and respect to the clubhouse. One day, if he is given the opportunity, he can be a manager in the big leagues."

Perez expects to get a text from Cox sometime during the next few days. He hopes it's a one-word message: Congratulations.

"[Perez] is a very, very bright baseball guy. He knows the game inside and out," Cox said. "He can be really tough and lose his temper. But he can be very calm and collected, as well. He's got everything."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.