Perez's rust has Mets concerned
Club thinks Classic stint set back lefty's conditioning
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When Oliver Perez joined Team Mexico to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, the Mets feared their No. 3 starter might fall behind in his conditioning and return to camp behind schedule. When the lefty took the mound on Wednesday, those fears were realized."I am concerned because I don't see arm strength," pitching coach Dan Warthen said.
His words followed Perez's particularly poor performance in a 10-6 loss to the Tigers. The numbers are almost grotesque, given the time remaining in Spring Training -- 11 outs, 92 pitches. Or worse: Six walks, six hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings. Pick your poison.
"He came into camp in good shape," Warthen said. "I thought he was throwing the ball very well when he left camp. I was a little bit reticent when he left [for the Classic], and my worries have come to fruition.
"The better body shape you are, the easier it is to get your arm in shape, and I think he has gotten himself out of [shape], even though the weight is about the same as last year. He still is not the same guy, the energetic guy, even the life around the clubhouse is not the same."
"One of those days you want to forget," is what Perez called his performance Wednesday. But his ERA in the two starts in the Classic was 9.45, suggesting there have been other, similarly forgettable days. "That's not good for me...because we're close to the season. But I'm going to be okay."
"When you don't have command and you don't have extra velocity, you're going to struggle. That's what happened," manager Jerry Manuel said. "He had neither. You gotta have one or the other."Command comes and goes with any pitcher. With Perez, it goes and comes and goes. That is essentially expected of him, even now that he is 27 and merely months into a three-year, $36 million contract. But the arm strength that was AWOL on Wednesday doesn't set well with his club. Warthen noticed a weight gain that developed while Perez was away. There is a question of how much throwing and conditioning Perez did while he was away. Now, Manuel intends to monitor Perez's between-starts work. He hadn't since Perez's return.
"I should've, but I didn't," the manager said.He also noted that the bullpen has been upgraded, as if that somehow eliminates concern about Perez.
"I've got five pretty good relievers. If [Perez] can get me through five. ... It'll be like Sampson. Get me to the pillars."Three of the five relievers -- two of them Classic participants -- had thrown earlier in a Minor League game, Frankie Rodriguez, J.J. Putz and Sean Green. K-Rod touched 92 mph on one of the 10 pitches he threw to complete his inning. He said he was better than he expected, given the extended layoff since his last appearance for Team Venezuela. He is to pitch in successive games for the first time this weekend. Putz followed the closer he is scheduled to precede in real games. He, too, touched 92 and he threw his killer splitter. Green, the likely seventh-inning setup man, threw two innings, something all the relievers except Rodriguez will do. Putz is to pitch in successive games, too.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.