Oliver Perez asks for chance to start

Updated: February 15, 2011, 9:31 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets left-hander Oliver Perez wants to start.

Manager Terry Collins said Monday morning that he met with Perez and general manager Sandy Alderson to talk about the southpaw's role, and the request was made. Collins said he would oblige early in camp and see how he does in that role.

"It's the same thing I've told you before -- that when Ollie got in here we were going to sit down and come up with a plan that everybody was on the [same] page with," Collins said. "And Sandy was in the meeting also. So it wasn't just Ollie and me. We talked about where did he feel he could help us most. He's raring to go. He said he feels great and is determined to put the last couple of years away. He said, 'I want a chance to make this club as a starting pitcher.' I said, 'You'll get that opportunity. If it's not working we'll talk about it as we get into camp and we can always make the switch.'

"He said, 'That's fine.' And I said, 'Well, whatever it is, we're all going to buy into it. We're all going to be on the same page and move forward.' He was very, very upbeat about the whole thing. It was a very good conversation. Sandy has some good things to say. We'll move forward from there."

Perez is coming off two straight subpar years. He was 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA last season in 17 games, seven of them starts. He made 14 starts the year before and went 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA. Collins said he will make his own evaluation of Perez and not rely on what happened in the past.

"I mean, I have all the numbers. I've heard all the stories. Now I'm going to make my own evaluation," Collins said. "No disrespect to anyone else and what I've heard about him. I believe that they're all good baseball people. But, you know what? People do change sometimes. Ollie, he pitched winter ball when he didn't have to. This guy has got 11, 12 years in the big leagues and pitched winter ball. He didn't have to do that. He wants to find it. He wants to regain what he was. And I salute that.

"I said, 'Here are my feelings. Maybe you need a fresh start. Maybe you need a different role.' He said, 'Well, if that's what you want me to do.' And I said, 'No, no, you have to want to do it. You've got to buy into it. If you don't, it's not going to work.' So I said, 'If you think you can make this club as a starter, by god you'll be given that opportunity. And then as we get into spring training we'll see what the results look like.'"

The Mets want at least Perez's results from 2007-08 when he went 25-17 with a 3.91 ERA in 63 starts.

As for Perez's velocity in winter ball, Collins said: "His last start he was 88-92 mph, which I thought was a good sign. But, again, it's about location with Ollie. As everybody knows, I don't care what role he plays, he's got to be able to locate the pitches. I told him this morning, 'I looked at your numbers throughout your entire career.' Left-handed guys do not hit him. He walks them. He can walk them, but they don't hit him. So we're in a situation where as a left-handed reliever, we've certainly got some good names on that board. But I said, 'If we get into this spring training and we see that a change may be coming, we're going to talk to you on a daily basis and let you know what we're thinking.'

"The first thing he said when he sat down was: 'I'll do whatever you want me to do. However you want me to pitch. I just want to make this team. I want to help this team. I want to get back to the playoffs. I want to regain what it was like in '06.'"

If Perez eventually does get moved to a lefty specialist audition, could the Mets actually have someone in that role who can get lefty hitters out, but also has a high propensity for walking them, given that he'd be called upon in critical moments?

"Maybe the attitude has changed where he trusts his stuff a little more than he did because he is throwing a little bit harder than he did last year," Collins said. "That might add a lot. Make no mistake: Those pitchers know when their stuff is not really good on those certain nights. Sometimes you want to pitch away from the bat. If he's throwing as well as they said he was at the end [in the Mexican league], we'll just see what the results are."

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

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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