Ollie alert: Lefty to meet with skipper
'We have to entertain some different things,' Manuel says after Perez allows 4 HRs
Manuel planned to meet with Perez on Saturday. And while the skipper said he did not care to make any pronouncements about Perez's standing in the rotation until after that conversation, Manuel strongly intimated Perez would not be facing the Washington Nationals on Wednesday when the southpaw's next turn is required.
"I won't do anything until I talk to the player and discuss it. That's about as much as I can give you on that particular situation," Manuel said before meeting in the visiting manager's office at Sun Life Stadium with GM Omar Minaya.
"I'm concerned with the outings that we're getting," Manuel said. "The last two outings, I have to be concerned with. We have to entertain some different things."
Manuel and Minaya later were joined by pitching coach Dan Warthen in a postgame conference.
Perez (0-3, 5.94 ERA) surrendered four homers. He was pulled in the fourth inning for the third time in his past four starts.
Asked what he might say to Manuel to state his case in that looming meeting, Perez replied: "I'm going to speak with him before I say something [to the media]."
The Mets internally discussed sending Perez to the minors last season before Perez instead landed on the disabled list with right knee discomfort that ultimately led to arthroscopic surgery. Demoting Perez may be the best option, but he has the right to refuse.
Swapping roles with left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who started for 10 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan before signing with the Mets, and sending Perez to the bullpen would be the cleanest option.
Regardless of Perez's landing spot, assuming he is bounced from the rotation, Takahashi would appear the clear-cut favorite to assume the role. The best alternative at Triple-A Buffalo is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who has a 2.23 ERA and is on the proper rest after allowing three runs (none earned) in eight innings against Norfolk on Friday night.
The least likely course of action with Perez, given the Mets' history, is an outright release -- even if the move is warranted.
The Mets rarely have shown the appetite for eating a big contract. The last time they did was on the eve of the 2004 season, when they sent Roger Cedeño to the St. Louis Cardinals along with $9 million of the $10 million owed. In Perez's case, the amount owed is significantly larger. Perez is less than two months into the second season of a three-year, $36 million deal.
Over the past five seasons, Perez has failed 16 times to complete four innings -- most in the majors during that span, ahead of Jorge De La Rosa and Kyle Davies (15 apiece).
Perez was pulled with the score 7-0 and one out in the fourth Friday after allowing three solo homers in a four-batter sequence -- to Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez and Dan Uggla. The last Mets pitcher to allow three homers in an inning: John Maine on June 12, 2007, at Dodger Stadium.
Uggla also had belted a three-run homer off Perez in a four-run third.
It marked the fourth time in Perez's career he's served up four long balls in a game.
Left-hander Johan Santana also allowed four homers in Philadelphia during the last road trip. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Mets are the first team since the 2006 Chicago Cubs to have multiple starts in a season in which the pitcher allowed four homers while not completing four innings.
"Right now I don't see Ollie's arm strength," Warthen said. "I think everybody recognizes that he doesn't have the fastball that he's had in the past. That's what we're looking for more than anything else."
Meanwhile, Manuel acknowledged Perez's short outing would have been a good opportunity to stretch out Takahashi for starting work by letting him relieve Perez and log extended innings. But the manager noted he was unable to do that because Takahashi had worked a combined 3 1/3 innings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and needed rest. Perhaps it was best to hold back the Japanese left-hander for Saturday's game anyway, as a hedge against Maine getting knocked out early.
Manuel has plenty of other decisions, too, if he's serious about shaking things up for the Mets, who have dropped back to .500 for the first time in three weeks with their fifth loss in six games.
The manager indicated a lineup juggling is coming Sunday if the offense doesn't get going. That's likely going to primarily be a juggling of the order -- perhaps with Jose Reyes in the No. 1 slot and David Wright in the No. 3 slot -- rather than major personnel changes. In reality, the only player swap Manuel likely could entertain is starting Chris "The Animal" Carter over Jeff Francoeur in right field. While Francoeur is 12-for-91 (.132) beginning with his hitless performance in that 20-inning game in St. Louis, he still is a vastly superior outfielder than Carter.
Regardless, Manuel said, anything more than modest tinkering would wait until the series finale, because the current lineup is righty dominated and the Mets are facing a left-hander, Nate Robertson, on Saturday.
"The following day there might be some different things," Manuel said.
As for Perez, Warthen seemed at a loss for answers. He noted Perez is not competitive with 86-88 mph fastballs -- drastically less arm strength than he had during a 15-win season in 2007.
In essence, because opponents have more time to react and catch up to Perez's fastball, he can't put them away with that pitch.
"Like the Wes Helms at-bat," Warthen said, citing an example from Friday's game. "He was able to foul off several pitches and had an eight-pitch at-bat. Ollie would have finished that at-bat with a good fastball up. Then they'd chase the breaking ball out of the zone. His walks certainly are increasing because people don't swing at bad pitches off of him."
Perez also had a velocity nosedive with the Pittsburgh Pirates just before his July 31, 2006, trade to the Mets, which was attributed to out-of-whack mechanics.
Reminded of that fact, Warthen countered: "We've looked at films forever. We've looked at him when he finished up the second half of 2008. And we can absolutely replicate the delivery. Right now, we're just not seeing the arm speed."