Oliver Perez Joins the Mariners Bullpen

By Matt Musico

Oliver Perez is still playing professional baseball? This was news to me when I saw it this morning. After being cut by the Mets in Spring Training last year, the erratic left-hander spent the entire 2011 with the Washington Nationals, but played exclusively in Double-A, going 3-5 with a 3.09 ERA. He spent most of his time as a starter (15 starts in 16 appearances) and his 8.19 BB/9 in 2010 shrunk to 3.21 in 2011, but he wasn’t in the Major Leagues. After signing a minor league deal with the Mariners for this year, he’s in the process of reinventing himself as a reliever.

There is an old adage in baseball that tall left-handed pitchers can always find a job, and Perez reaching the Majors again after his performance in Flushing is proof of that. In Triple-A Tacoma, Ollie made 22 relief appearances before getting the call back to the show; he went 2-2 in 31 IP with a 4.65 ERA. Although his ERA and BABIP (.382) don’t impress very much, he does have good stuff (when he

focuses) and has the ability to make batters swing and miss. His 12.19 K/9 in Tacoma can speak for itself.

It’s going to take a while for him to make the full transition of converting himself from a starting pitcher to a reliever, but he got his first taste of it a couple nights ago, as he threw 1.1 scoreless innings on June 18th against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Eric Wedge has assured the Seattle media that Perez will solely be coming out of the bullpen, allowing Ollie the security of knowing he will not be starting any games in a Mariner uniform.

One of the most frustrating aspects of watching Oliver Perez pitch for the Mets was witnessing him dominate for four or five innings, then lose his focus and miss the strike zone badly en route to walking just about everyone. Becoming a reliever may be a blessing in disguise for him because he only has to focus for short periods of time. He doesn’t have to worry about showing hitters three or four pitches because it’s rare that he will see a lineup two or three times.

Perez has regained the velocity that he lost in New York (94.4 mph fastball avg), and as a reliever, he will be able to use it more often, as he threw it almost 80% of the time in his appearance against the D-backs. This will allow him to become more of a two-pitch pitcher, combing his heater with his slider, with his changeup there as a backup. Now that he’s throwing harder again and using a lower (and consistent) arm slot, he will be able to keep hitters off-balance again.

It’s a nice story to see Perez back in the Majors Leagues, especially since I hadn’t heard about him at all since his release from the Mets. However, I’m not itching for him to come back to Flushing, he can stay in Seattle.