By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Oliver Perez is pretty sure the last time he went five days without pitching, it was as a starting pitcher three years ago. Since converting to a reliever and resurrecting his sagging baseball career, the Seattle Mariners veteran left-hander has pitched on a steady basis throughout the last two seasons.
But following an awful outing in Texas where he gave up six runs on five hits with two walks in just 2/3 of an inning pitched, Perez was given some time off from the mound.
“That was one of those days where if I’d thrown the rosin bag, they probably would have hit it for a base hit,” Perez said.
In his last seven outings, he’d pitched four innings and given up 10 runs on 13 hits for a 22.50 ERA.
There was no set time for the break. It ended up being five days. It’s a long time for a reliever, who is used to throwing four to five times a week.
“It was like when I was a starter,” he said.
But it seemed to help Perez. He returned to the mound on Friday night against the Angels and looked like the pitcher that dominated the first half season. Perez retired the side with ease, including strikeouts of Mark Trumbo and Chris Nelson.
“I felt good,” he said. “When you get a break like this, those five days help you feel really good and fresh. That’s very important.”
Perez’s fastball was back up to 94-95 mph. In recent weeks, it was around 90-91. He was fatigued, but wasn’t going to complain or ask for a break. When he was imploding against Texas, he asked to stay in and “wear it” to save on his bullpen mates’ arms.
“I saw (Charlie) Furbush warming up, and he has the most appearances on the team, I didn’t want for him to have to come in the game,” Perez said.
The coaching staff knew Perez needed the break even if he wouldn’t ask for it.
“He’ll never make any excuses, but I think that’s what it was,” manager Eric Wedge said. “You saw the way he was arm-side high so much, that’s usually a good indicator of a guy trying to make up for (being tired). He’s such a competitor. To have those five days off and be able to get in the game last night and see the velocity, the looseness of the delivery, the consistency of his release point, those are things you like to see.”
Perez has appeared in 49 games this season — third most on the team. Last season was his first as a reliever and he made 55 appearances — 22 with Class AAA Tacoma and 33 with the Mariners.
“When you have a young bullpen and you’ve got guys who are getting it done, you’re going to go to them as much as you can to have a chance to win ballgames,” Wedge said of using Perez so much. “We’ve been in a lot of close games this year that haven’t turned our way, but you’re still in them and you’re fighting to win those games. You’re going to use the guys you think give you the best chance, and he’s been right in the middle of that.”
Nick Franklin was out of the line-up for a third straight game. The Mariners second baseman is recovering from a nasty gash, which required five stitches. Wedge was just hoping to have him available to pinch hit in the next few days.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to use him defensively yet,” Wedge said.
The hold up isn’t the pain in the knee or the stitches themselves — it’s a combination of the two.
“I not necessarily sure if stitches have to come out,” Wedge said. “I know he’s feeling better. But that got in there pretty deep. I just want to have him available to pinch hit first. If we have to pinch run for him or make some moves, we are able to make it work.”
Mike Zunino caught another bullpen, did some more defensive drills and took live batting practice. Wedge thinks he will join Tacoma in the middle of next week if everything continues to progress.
In his final swing of batting practice, Zunino launched an opposite field shot well over the wall in right.
“It felt great,” Zunino said.