When the Mets acquired left-hander Oliver Perez in a trade with the Pirates at the 2006 trade deadline, they thought they were getting a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Five tumultuous seasons later, Perez’s tenure as a Met was meekly ended during spring training prior to the 2011 season having compiled a 4.71 ERA over 520 innings in New York. Since then, Perez toiled in the Minors with the Nationals in 2011, and with the Mariners in the first half of 2012.
The Mariners, though, did something the Mets and Nationals did not — they converted Perez to a reliever. With Triple-A Tacoma last year, Perez posted a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings. He struggled with control, walking 19, but also rediscovered his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 42 batters. He was promoted to the Majors in mid-June last year. Between June 18 and the end of the regular season, he posted a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Somehow, Perez has been even better this year. In 24.1 innings, the 31-year-old has a 1.11 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 12 walks. He earned the first save of his 12-year career last night, shutting the door on the Athletics in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 victory.
Perez’s success has to be in the back of the mind of any team that is considering going after Tim Lincecum in free agency. Lincecum has continued to struggle as a starter, but prospered out of the Giants’ bullpen in the post-season last year. Future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who performed well in both roles, thinks Lincecum has a future as a reliever.
If Oliver Perez can do it, why can’t Tim Lincecum?