PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The pendulum swung back on Monday night. Oliver Perez provided some evidence that he has recovered from the effects of his World Baseball Classic sabbatical and is now fit for regular-season duty. In less than a week, Perez went from out of sorts to primed to face the Reds in Cincinnati in the season's third game.

Both his confidence and his pitch count (93) increased during 6 1/3 innings of effective work against a reasonable facsimile of the Orioles' "A" lineup en route to a 2-1 win. He threw 61 percent of his pitches for strikes, and surrendered merely one walk and three hits, one a home run by No. 2 batter Adam Jones. He struck out three and demonstrated enough control of both his pitches and himself to prompt unconditional praise from:

His manager: "He was pretty good. In all honesty, he probably needed it as much as we needed to see it," Jerry Manuel said.

His pitching coach: "A very positive outing for Oliver. He's back to where he was last year [n terms of mechanics]," Dan Warthen said. "He's got his legs back under him. So I'm pleased with the work he's done the last week."

And himself: "I had to forget about what happened last time and get better. This type of game made me feel better," said Perez, who also praised himself for throwing more first-pitch strikes.

"Every game is different," he added, referring to the difference between his start against the Tigers on March 25 -- six runs, all earned, on five hits and six walks in 3 2/3 innings -- and what he accomplished on Monday night.

But the Mets understand that his remarks could apply to what he did against the Orioles and what he might do against the Reds. Consistency has not been a strength for Perez.

Perez did demonstrate consistency last summer after Warthen replaced Rick Peterson and revised his delivery. He pitched at least six innings in 13 successive starts before becoming erratic in September.

The Mets aren't asking that much from Perez, the recipient of a three-year, $36 million contract in February. Averaging six innings with an ERA closer to the 3.56 he produced in 29 starts in 2007 would delight the team.

"If he can get us that far and we have the [relievers] we have," Manuel said, "we'll be fine."