Ollie's final hours
March, 19, 2011
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com
Perez allowed consecutive homers to Jeff Frazier and Brian Bixler, the first two batters he faced, on hanging sliders after inheriting a pair of runners from Pedro Beato in the seventh inning Saturday. Afterward, even supporter Dan Warthen indicated he had not seen enough from Perez relative to the competition in the lefty specialist role to warrant selecting Perez for the Opening Day roster.
"We have other guys in here that are working hard and doing a good job from the left side," Warthen said after the Mets beat the Washington Nationals, 7-4, in a split-squad game. "And he's trying to make the left-handed job, and these other guys are doing a very good job right now. So we have to evaluate that way. ... I would like to see more."
By more, Warthen clarified, he did not mean more Grapefruit League appearances from Perez. He meant more quality in the performances.
"I would like to see better stuff from Ollie," the pitching coach said.
The most "disappointing" part of Perez's appearance came after the homers, then a pair of outs, according to Warthen. After facing four straight right-handed batters to open his appearance, Perez walked lefty-hitting Roger Bernadina on four pitches.
"Here's our one left-hander. We can get out of the inning," Warthen said. "And we didn't throw four pitches very close."
Actually, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman did Perez no favors. Terry Collins initially had summoned Perez to face lefty-hitting Matt Stairs, but Riggleman played the matchup game -- even in Grapefruit League play -- and replaced Stairs with the righty-hitting Frazier.
Still, Collins noted, it's not like Perez could be shielded from lefty-righty matchups in the regular season. Riggleman did exactly what an opposing manager would do if Perez were the lefty specialist and the games counted.
"That's what's going to happen in the big leagues," Collins said. "They're going to take that guy out sometimes. Obviously they're not going to take Ryan Howard out. Somebody else, they might take him out and pinch-hit. He's got to have something to get those righties. He can't be hanging sliders."
Collins said he would need to meet with Sandy Alderson, who did not see the performance firsthand. Alderson was at Disney with the Mets' other split-squad team. Perez originally had been scheduled to be on the trip, but Collins wanted him at the home game so that the manager could be there for a fair evaluation.
"I truly believe that when you're trying to make a club, I need to see you," Collins said. "I need to be the guy. I don't think it's fair for a guy, whatever decision is made at the end, to come in and say, 'You never saw me pitch.'"
Asked specifically if he was interested in seeing Perez's bullpen audition continue, Collins said: "Well, Sandy and I are going to talk about it."
Collins had to pull Perez before the inning was completed. The Digitial Domain Park crowd of 4,942 loudly jeered Perez as he hopped over the third-base line en route to the dugout.
"People can say a lot of stuff," Perez said. "But ... it's one of those days. You're going to have really bad days. I know I don't want to have a really bad day. But it's one of those days. I have to come here tomorrow and try to get better."
"We're still human beings," an empathetic Collins said. "I know you [media] guys have a job to do, but if you walk through your office every day and people are booing you as you're going through -- 5,000 of them -- c'mon, let's get down to the nature of the whole thing. That doesn't feel good. He's down right now. I told him, 'Hey, look, it's one of those days. You've got to be able to get through it and hopefully come back the next day and pitch better.'"
But there may not be any more next days.
Mets brass had used the logic that the home crowd would be too unforgiving in part to justify Castillo's release. It certainly seems the organization is now prepared to eat Perez's $12 million in addition to Castillo's $6 million.
Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon happened to be attending Saturday's Perez performance. Wilpon said the day after last year's regular season that he would authorize, if it was recommended by the GM, eating Perez's contract in addition to Castillo's.
Warthen said Perez topped out at 87 mph. That was fine for starter Chris Capuano, who had spot-on location. But it's not sufficient for the erratic Perez.
"You have to be able to locate and move the ball a little bit," Warthen said. "You can't just throw helter-skelter."
Said Perez: "I didn't do my job. That's why they scored four runs. The game was 7-0, and right now it's 7-4. That's a really bad job."
Tim Byrdak, who may be the lone left-hander in the Mets' bullpen, except for Capuano the season's opening road trip until the Mets need a fifth starter, tossed a scoreless ninth against the Nationals for his second Grapefruit League save. The Mets also very much like Mike O'Connor, but he's on a minor league deal, which means it's more likely than not he gets squeezed off the Opening Day roster.