Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 3:31 p.m.
Updated at 4:50 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
NATIONALS PAGE NATIONALS VIDEO
VIERA, Fla. -- The Washington Nationals have signed former New York Mets left-hander Oliver Perez to a minor-league contract, a club source confirmed.
Perez was released Monday by the Mets, who will pay his entire 12 million salary this season. If he reaches the majors, the Nationals would be responsible only for a pro-rated portion of the major-league minimum salary of 414,000.
The erratic 29-year-old was a bust in New York, going a combined 3-9 with a 6.81 ERA and 100 walks in 112 13 innings the last two seasons and getting demoted to mop-up relief duties. He continued to struggle this spring, allowing nine earned runs in 9 23 innings and putting 21 men on base in the process. His fastball, which once sat in the mid-90s, was down to 85 mph.
After serving up back-to-back homers to Nationals minor-leaguers Jeff Frazier and Brian Bixler over the weekend, the Mets released Perez, eating his entire salary in the process.
"The velocity was not there. The command was not there," general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday. "It wasn't going to work in a starting role. It didn't appear as if it were going to work in a relief role, at least anytime soon."
Perez will report to Nationals minor-league camp, where he'll work with pitching coordinator Spin Williams. Williams was the Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching coach in 2004 when Perez went 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts, and team officials hope the two can work well together again and solve the lefty's mechanical woes.
The Nationals haven't mapped out a full plan yet, but if all goes well Perez could open the season at Class AAA Syracuse, with the possibility of a promotion to Washington only if he performs well and the team is in need of another starter.
As things currently stand, the Nationals already have five starters penciled in to the Opening Day rotation: Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny. They also have two prospects slated to open the year at Syracuse in Ross Detwiler and Yunesky Maya, each who impressed this spring.
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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