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Mike SteffanosFriday, March 16, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Oliver Perez took a symbolic journey back to 2004 last night in St. Lucie, putting up the type of dominant performance that made the then 22-year-old the toast of baseball for one magical season. Perez has looked a little better each time out this spring, and it actually seems possible that he just might be able to justify the confidence the Mets have in him.

Despite tiring a little in his fifth and final inning, Perez dominated a Red Sox lineup tonight that included David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who he struck out back-to-back twice. He kept his fastball down in the strike zone for most of the night, and displayed the nasty sharp down-breaking slider that embarrasses hitters. Perez stated after the game that his slider was as good as it was in 2004.

The final pitching line: 5IP, 0ER, 3H, 9K, 0BB

Perez is going to have to prove that he can do it on a regular basis. Two years of sometimes dreadful pitching rightfully has earned him a lot of skepticism. But Perez seems to have the confidence of his manager and pitching coach, and he has the right attitude. He's been working hard to throw strikes and repeat his delivery, and he is making steady progress. I don't know what more you could ask of him at this point.

Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith were effective in relief, Scott Schoeneweis was a little wild, and Billy Wagner resurrected memories of some of his worst struggles. Shawn Green had a pair of hits, including a homer off Josh Beckett to dead center field. His bat really is showing some signs of life, and I wonder if he could give the Mets 25 HR and 75 RBI in 450-500 ABs. We'll leave those thoughts for another day. Tonight belonged to the line-hopping lefty.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (9)

Perez can make us dream, can't he? Despite my earlier expressed skepticism, I would love to see him succeed.

Have you noticed how many deserving outfielders the Mets have in camp this spring? Pretty much all of them, that's how many; even Shawn Green seems to have resurrected his swing. Besides the starters we have Johnson, Newhan, Milledge, Chavez: that's four backup outfielders, all of whom look good. And the kids Gomez and Martinez didn't exactly stink it up.

As a Mets fan who remembers outfields of Timo, Payton, Bennie and Darryl Hamilton (and Cedeno II, Bonilla II, Brian MacRae, Allensworth, gah!), I am NOT used to this embarassment of riches. Sort of like opening your mail to find that your credit card limit is suddenly extended over the moon; it feels good, but a little hard to believe.

Hey, did you notice the latest cuts? Vargas and Humber were both sent down -- but Lino Urdaneta remains in the major league camp, and deservedly so.

Meanwhile Aaron Heilman is hurting some; could be a story brewing here.

Whew. It's good to have many good arms in camp. "Dealing from Strength" is something I would like to get used to.

Oliver looked simply amazing tonight. He showed that potential for dominance that keeps most of us hoping. And I don't mean to spoil the moment, but just as I wasn't too concerned when he looked terrible in his first start, I won't get over excited about this one. Perez has been consistently inconsistent for so many years now that I just want to see him put 3 or 4 good starts together in a row before I start going nuts.

That said, he has definitely looked better each outing this spring. The most encouraging things we're seeing are his consistent delivery and mechanics, and his attack approach to hitters. If he puts up a few more solid starts in a row, then we have something real good.

dd - I like what I see and hear out of him so far. I think he finally gets it. Whether he can keep it going over the course of a season is, of course, the big question.

I disliked the Green signing even before it happened, but I like what I've seen out of him this past week. That HR was CRUSHED last night. If he could give us that line I mentioned in the piece 450-500 AB, 25 HR, 75 RBI out of the 7-hole we could survive his defense.

Agree with you on the OF.

I keep thinking I should write a preview of Lino.

Salman - I agree. It's not one start that's making me optimistic, it's the whole pattern of this spring.

Final score 4-o Mets, Perez Win, would look nice in a season headline. I could get use to that. Ah spring is in the air. I have 8" of snow already outside and the storm has not hit full yet. Come on April. Franco should make room by backing off the team or coach but save room on the bench for some young guys( younger guys) The jacket told Perez something about his delivery, to be more cosistent and think more about it.Maybe just maybe we got something in this youg lefty.I think the Mets are kind of showcasing 1/B Carb to be in a future package trade?

Of course Perez was the story tonight, but did you see this kid Smith? His off-speed stuff is unbelievable. Show looks pretty good, also, as a replacement for Darren Oliver. All in all, the bullpen might be even better than last year.

If Green has his stroke back, too, we have a logjam in the outfield that will come as a very pleasant surprise. That would put us in a position to get something of value back for Green at the deadline; a team like Oakland, Boston or the Chicago White Sox might find him a great rental if he's doing well. I'm a serious advocate for Milledge to start, though, because of his production on both sides of the ball.

9K's vs BSox is not sliced cheese. I saw an article (Mets.com?/Daily News?) which talked of Peterson's plan for Ollie this Spring. Getting hit hard that first outing may have part of it.

as for Green, I WANTED that trade, now I hope he goes in a package for another arm.

Al - Carp will be at Double-A this season, so it's probably early to think about trading him.
Matt - I'd be kind of surprised if Green hits at all and Milledge was on the team. I think they want to get him some more time playing every day in New Orleans. Actually, given the age and health histories of Green and Alou, Milledge will most likely wind up getting extended playing time in NY in 2007.
Ed - Doubt they could even get a middling prospect for Green now, unless they were willing to eat almost all his money.

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