PITTSBURGH — A quick little piece of trivia: Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Seattle Mariners last played at PNC Park on June 20, 2004.
Seattle prevailed in that game 5-4.
Who was the losing pitcher for Pittsburgh?
Well, that would be the Mariners’ hard-throwing setup man Oliver Perez.
“Really?” said Jason Bay, who started that game in left field for the Pirates. “Ollie didn’t lose many games back then. We must not have scored many runs.”
Well, the Pirates got two runs off of starter Freddy Garcia and runs off of relievers Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Ron Villone.
Perez, whose hair and goatee have touches of gray, could only laugh at the information.
“That was a long time ago,” he said. “Every time I come here I’m reminded it was a good experience. They gave me the opportunity to be a starter.”
Perez and Bay came to Pittsburgh in a trade with the Padres for outfielder Brian Giles in late 2003. In 2004, Perez earned a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation, going 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA. He struck out 239 batters in 196 innings (11 strikeouts per nine innings).
“I think it was one of the best years in my career,” Perez said. “Bay had an even better year.”
Indeed, Bay was the National League Rookie of the Year, hitting .282 with 26 homers and 82 RBI.
For Perez, his career as a starter flamed out after he was traded the Mets. But he’s reinvented himself as a reliever with the Mariners.
With the injury to Stephen Pryor, Perez and Carter Capps have become the two primary setup men for closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
“It’s a really good opportunity for me,” Perez said. “It’s my job to keep the game where it is. I get a chance to pitch every day. And if you have a bad day, you can come back the next day to help the team win.”
In 12 appearances this year, Perez has allowed just one run in 121/3 innings with 12 strikeouts.
“I think the key is my slider,” Perez said. “I’ve been able to throw it for strikes and it’s lower and harder. And it’s made my fastball that much better. I’m able to throw that slider and change the eye level of hitters and that’s big.”
With the off day on Thursday and an off day on the following Monday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge was able to adjust the starting rotation. His plan is to start Hisashi Iwakuma on Friday in the series opener against the Oakland A’s.
Rookie Brandon Maurer, who last started on April 30, will start on Saturday, giving him 10 days rest.
“We are trying to manage his (Maurer’s) innings and when we have opportunities to do that, we are going to do it,” Wedge said.
Because of injuries, Maurer has pitched more than 100 innings in his career just once — last season when he pitched 1372/3 innings with Class AA Jackson.
Joe Saunders will start the series finale against the A’s on Sunday.
Hernandez will likely open the series on Tuesday in New York at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees were to stay with their current rotation, left-hander CC Sabathia would start for New York.