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Rain delay does not sway left-hander

4/25/2004

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A nearly three-hour rain delay was of no real
bother to Pirates left-hander Oliver Perez. It was the thought of
another two-day delay that worried him.

Perez, eager to pitch despite the extended wait at the start,
shut out Cincinnati on six hits in his first major league complete
game and Pittsburgh hit three homers Sunday in beating the Reds
6-0.

"I'm very happy to get that," Perez said. "I'm just hoping to
get some more (shutouts)."

Rookie Jose Castillo hit a two-run homer and Rob Mackowiak and
Humberto Cota had solo shots off Reds starter Jose Acevedo (2-1) to
help the Pirates end a four-game losing streak. The Reds had won
four of five overall and were 4-1 against Pittsburgh.

Perez (2-0) almost didn't make the starting rotation coming out
of spring training as he struggled late in camp to make numerous
adjustments to his delivery, but has been the Pirates' most
reliable starter since then.

He struck out 10 -- the sixth time in his 43-game career he's had
double-digit strikeouts -- and walked one while lowering his ERA to
1.74. He has permitted only two runs in 15 2-3 innings during his
last two starts, including Pittsburgh's 2-1 victory over the Mets
on April 17 in which he didn't figure in the decision.

Perez didn't fight it when pitching coach Spin Williams began
retooling his delivery midway through spring training, though he
didn't fully understand why the changes were needed. Perez, 22, had
several big strikeout games last season with the Padres and
Pirates, but was only 4-10.

"He's got a temper at times, and he said to me he was still
striking out a lot of guys," said Cota, who caught Perez. "But I
said to him, `How many wins are you getting?' He's really been
outstanding (through the makeover)."

The Pirates are trying to smooth Perez's delivery to give him
better rhythm and keep him from throwing more pitches than
necessary.

"I think it's remarkable he's done the things he's done,"
manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It's tough enough to pitch at this
level, but to pitch while making adjustments is even tougher."

The biggest problem has been getting him to the mound regularly.

Perez's scheduled start Friday against the Reds was pushed back
to Sunday when the Cubs-Pirates game Thursday was rained out. He
wasn't certain when he would have pitched again if Sunday's game
had been washed out.

"He was a little anxious to get out there," Cota said. "He
was really pumped up ... and he didn't want to wait through any
more delays."

Perez looked sharp from the start despite a delay that pushed
back the starting time to 4:25, retiring eight of the first nine
batters. He was in trouble twice, but struck out Barry Larkin to
end the third and Juan Castro to end the seventh, both times with
runners on first and third.

Perez was especially effective against Adam Dunn, striking him
out three straight times. Dunn came into the game 6-for-17 with
four homers and seven RBI against Pittsburgh this season before
going 0-for-4.

"Our left-handers usually hit left-handers, so he obviously
must have been throwing pretty well," Reds manager Dave Miley
said.

Mackowiak gave Pittsburgh the lead in the second with his third
homer, a one-out drive into the right-field seats on the first
pitch he saw from Acevedo. Jack Wilson's RBI double made it 2-0 in
the third.

Castillo, who has four hits in his last two games, followed
Cota's single with a two-out homer in the fourth, and Cota added a
solo shot with one out in the sixth.

Acevedo left after allowing five runs and seven hits in six
innings.

"I was feeling good, but that happens in baseball sometimes,"
he said. "That delay was tough ... but give credit to Perez, he
threw a great game."

Game notes
Cota started as C Jason Kendall sat out for only the second
time this season. ... After the 2 hour, 50 minute wait, the game
was played under mostly sunny skies. ... Because of the long delay,
the Pirates will allow all fans to exchange tickets for another
game, even those who watched the game. ... Castillo and Cota both
hit the second homers of their careers. ... The Pirates had dropped
six of nine and hadn't won since beating the Mets the previous
Sunday. ... Jason Bay, expected to be the Pirates' starting left
fielder once he recovers from shoulder surgery, was held out of
extended spring training in Bradenton, Fla., for several days
because of shoulder discomfort. He is not yet ready to go on a
minor league rehabilitation assignment. ... Perez's longest
previous start was eight innings against the Dodgers on July 7,
while with San Diego.