Commentary

Mets activate Ollie, deactivate season

Perez's place on team is proof positive that playoffs are a pipe dream in Queens

Updated: July 21, 2010, 11:45 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PHOENIX -- Left-hander Oliver Perez was activated from the disabled list by the New York Mets after a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.

And that's all you need to know about why the Mets are not serious contenders for a postseason spot, and why the organization would be wasting minor league resources pursuing a notable trade-deadline acquisition by the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Forget for a moment that after losing five times in six games to begin a second-half-opening road trip, the Mets now sit 6½ games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

This is the relevant question today: How can the Mets be considered serious contenders when they choose to play with a 24-man roster?

[+] EnlargeJose Reyes
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireNot many teams have done what the Mets have in Arizona -- allow the lowly Diamondbacks to hold their heads high.

Infielder Justin Turner was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo after Tuesday's game to make room for Perez.

Here's the bottom line, and it's no secret:

Oliver Perez is rejoining the Mets because he is owed $16,918,032.79. He is rejoining the Mets in the false hope he can be rehabilitated enough that someone would trade for him and take on some of the salary. He is rejoining the Mets because of an irrational fear that if the Mets cut him loose and he signed elsewhere for the major league minimum salary and was productive, the Mets would have egg on their face.

News flash: There's enough egg on the Mets' face from the initial three-year, $36 million contract that no one would notice another speck under the far-fetched premise that Perez, if cut loose, would go elsewhere and flourish.

It's no revelation to note that the Mets will pay Perez's remaining salary through 2011 whether he is on the roster or released. Instead consider the more subtle roster implications of Perez's activation:

Manager Jerry Manuel isn't going to use Perez in a meaningful situation because Perez is no different now than when he initially was placed on the disabled list June 5.

A scout who watched Perez's final minor league start with Triple-A Buffalo offered this: "Vintage Ollie. 85-88 mph with two BBs in liberal strike zone. Also gave up two monster bombs."

Pitching coach Dan Warthen and Manuel both acknowledged Tuesday there was no discernible difference between pre-DL Perez and the one who returned. Manuel on Tuesday described Perez's new role as a second lefty-on-lefty specialist, but obviously behind -- waaaaaay behind -- Pedro Feliciano in the pecking order. For insight into the manager's faith, just look at when Manuel last inserted Perez in a game before the southpaw landed on the DL.

Perez pitched the final 2 2/3 innings of an 18-6 loss to the San Diego Padres on May 31 in his last appearance with the Mets.

So the Mets will play with a far different 24-plus-one roster than the one then-GM Steve Phillips once described when discussing the organization's objection to signing Alex Rodriguez many years ago.

The Mets now have to carry a seven-man bullpen. That's because they essentially will have a six-man bullpen plus Perez, who will be used only in the shortest of bursts, likely in the most noncritical of situations.

A seven-man bullpen means a five-man bench. And that means if the Mets carry two backup catchers and Chris Carter, a lefty bat not trusted in the field, there are only two legitimate backup fielders available: outfielder Jeff Francoeur and infielder Alex Cora. That limits Manuel's in-game maneuverability.

And if Hisanori Takahashi again struggles in the rotation at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, would the Mets dare use Perez as a starting pitcher the next turn, on July 28 against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field?

The walk-up gate might be pretty good, just so the Flushing faithful could voice its objection.

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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