The question is, which Perez will take the mound on Sunday? The one who pitched three scoreless, one-hit innings against the U.S. and four scoreless innings in his pair of World Baseball Classic appearances, or the one who was demoted to the Minor Leagues twice this year -- once by the Pirates and once by the Mets?Perez has given sneak previews of what he is capable of accomplishing. In his last start of the regular season on Oct. 1, Perez pitched one of his best games of the year, throwing four innings at Washington, while allowing only one run on five hits in an eventual 6-2 Mets win. It created neat bookends to the season since Perez worked into the sixth inning during the Bucs' opener at Milwaukee on April 3, giving up only one run on three hits in a 5-2 loss. The problem is what transpired in between, and what Perez has done to pull himself out of it. "Since he's been here, he's worked real hard," Randolph said. "Not just with [pitching coach] Rick Peterson, but with guys like Tommy Glavine and Pedro Martinez. Those guys have been very instrumental in his coming together, making some adjustments. "He's done a nice job of repeating his delivery, throwing strikes. Every once in a while, he'll get a little bit erratic, like most pitchers will, but he's really been very consistent throwing strikes. Since he's been here, that's been a big improvement for him." Dialing back the clock four years to his San Diego days, much more was expected from Perez than his 30-43 record and 4.67 ERA indicates. He was the nexus of the Giles trade, Bay being just an unheralded Minor League throw-in at the time. Perez said on Saturday night that all the shifting from team to team caused him some nervousness and displacement. But that may be all behind him. "Right now, I feel good because there's a lot of veteran guys around me," Perez said. "It's my first time being with a lot of veterans, like Glavine and Pedro, and they help me a lot. They just tell me, 'Be relaxed in the game and don't think too much. Just play baseball.'" And that's what he's going to try to do in his first postseason start on Sunday night.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.