Mets Rumors & News
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Privately, Mets officials have suggested that Oliver Perez could emerge as the ace of the team’s pitching staff this season. Publicly, fans and critics alike have scoffed. On Wednesday afternoon, score one for the skeptics. Perez sent a pitch sailing to the backstop during warmups, striking a Sports Illustrated photographer square in the calf. While his control improved from there, the results did not. In allowing 4 runs on 5 hits through two innings of work, Perez more closely resembled the 3-13 pitcher from a year ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates essentially surrendered for nothing despite watching the then-23-year-old pitcher go 12-10 with 2.98 ERA in 2004.

However, the Mets are not panicking and neither should fans. The Daily News’ John Harper tells us why not:

Perez had the most walks per nine innings of any pitcher who tossed 200 innings the past two seasons (5.76), contributing to a 6.22 ERA in ’05 and ’06. So Perez throwing 27 of 38 pitches for strikes yesterday was a welcome development, [Paul] LoDuca suggested – a showing that builds on an NLCS performance that allowed the lefty to forget a 3-13 regular-season record with the Pirates and Mets last year.

“I know he might not have liked the results, but I was happy with it,” LoDuca said. “I’d rather him throw strikes – it’s the first game of spring training – than him just walk guys. When I set up in, the ball was middle. When I set up away, it was middle. He just caught too much of the plate today. That’s more getting out on the mound and more of a timing thing.”

Three years ago, in his first full major-league season, Perez led all pitchers with 11 strikeouts per nine innings. His .202 opponent’s batting average against ranked second in the NL that year to Arizona’s Randy Johnson (.197).

Can he get back to the point where opposing batters, not photographers, shudder?

“I don’t want to put too much pressure, because I know what happened last year and two years ago,” Perez said. “I just have to learn and keep working.”

Said LoDuca: “He’s an energy pitcher. Coming to New York is probably the best thing for him. He feeds off that energy. And he grew up a lot in the playoffs last year.”

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