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06/28/09 8:25 PM ET

Perez makes strides in latest rehab start

Lefty's five shutout innings at Class A encourage Mets

NEW YORK -- Left-handed pitcher Oliver Perez took a big step toward returning to the Mets with a solid performance on Sunday in his latest rehab start.

Perez threw 72 pitches in five scoreless innings for Class A Brooklyn, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out six.

Before the start, the Mets had talked of giving Perez two or three more rehab outings in order to get his pitch count over 90. The left-hander's outing on Sunday -- a significant improvement over the six runs he allowed in three innings on Monday -- could expedite that process.

It is not clear whether Perez will automatically regain his spot in the Mets' starting rotation, as both Fernando Nieve and Tim Redding have pitched well as fill-ins over the past month.

"It depends on how well he's pitching," manager Jerry Manuel said. "If Ollie is back the way he was last year at this time, then I'd find a spot for him."

Even after a rough end to Redding's start on Saturday night in the Mets' 5-0 loss to the Yankees, Manuel said the right-hander still has the manager's trust. Manuel even discussed the possibility of splitting games between the two pitchers.

"The other option is to kind of piggyback them -- have one guy give me five [innings] and the other give me four," Manuel said.

Perez has not pitched for the Mets since May 2. In five starts this season, he was 1-2 with a 9.97 ERA.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.