Will the Mets ask Perez to accept assignment to the Minor Leagues or will his exile take him to the bullpen? What will they do? How will he be fixed? Can he be fixed? They'll talk about it, Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya said repeatedly. What neither man said through all the hand-ringing, though, was that retaining Perez in the rotation was an option. Evidently, it is not.
So come Thursday, when the Mets return home from this Philadelphia-Atlanta excursion to engage the Phillies at Citi Field, someone other than the pitcher on whom the Mets bestowed a $36 million contract in February will be the starting pitcher. The Mets don't know the identity of the replacement. Jon Niese? Ken Takahashi? But that's where Perez is at his juncture. His work has been so poor, the Mets feel obliged to eliminate him from their plans even though they don't know how they will replace him.
Perez saw to that in a remarkably imprecise 18-batter performance that covered merely 2 1/3 innings. Eleven batters reached base -- six on walks, one of which went to the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded. Some 3 1/2 hours later, Sean Green repeated that egregious transgression, forcing in the decisive run in a 6-5, 10-inning loss. But it was Perez who was regarded as the primary offender on this day; Green was merely an accomplice by comparison.
Perez said "I feel embarrassed," characterized his pitching as "horrible" and seemed to indicate he would accept demotion to the Minor Leagues if the Mets were to suggest that course of action probably would be the most beneficial for him.
"If I need it," Perez said, "I'll have to go."
Perez has sufficient service in the big leagues -- five years is the threshold -- that he can reject assignment to the Minors.
"Everything will be considered," Manuel said. "I'll sit down with our pitching people, put our heads together and try to come up with a plan."
The club suspects Perez's problems go beyond the usual lack of command and lack of control, beyond the fairly new issue of diminished velocity that now are in his head.
"His confidence is shot," Manuel said. "Seldom have I seen him in that form and fashion. ... He has thrown up a few flags. That's a warning. I don't see how he can't be discouraged."
That Perez (1-2) survived for 18 batters was surprising. He threw 77 pitches, 41 for balls. Even when he walked his counterpart, Jamie Moyer, to force in the Phillies' third run, in the third inning, one of the called strikes was well above the strike zone. Four of the five batters he faced in the third walked. And he already had surrendered two runs in the first and one in the second. One of the seven outs he did achieve was a well-struck fly ball that scored a run.
And the Phillies are the team Perez regularly dominated last season -- an 0.35 ERA in 26 innings.
The lefty's inadequate performance followed five days of intense work with pitching coach Dan Warthen and, at times, Johan Santana. If anything, Perez was less effective, less in control Saturday than he was in his previous start against the Nationals on Sunday in Citi Field. Then he allowed nine hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. That start put his ERA at 9.31. It now is 9.97.
Perez has pitched 21 2/3 innings in five starts, allowing 49 baserunners.
As poorly as the game started, the ending was only slightly less vexing for the Mets. After they had overcome all that Perez had wrought and taken a lead -- albeit short-lived -- they endured their third loss in four games. The bullpen was responsible for the loss. Green surrendered the bases-loaded walk to Shane Victorino. Green had been undermined by a infield roller by Pedro Feliz after one out. But then Green hit pinch-hitter Matt Stairs. After a fly ball out, he walked pinch-hitter Chris Coste to load the bases. The walk to Victorino was the Phillies' 11th with the bases loaded this season.
The loss was the sixth for the Mets' bullpen -- the 'pen was responsible for losses Tuesday and Wednesday as well, the team's sixth in 10 one-run games. It was the Mets first extra-inning game. The Phillies, 4-1 in one-run games, won in their final at-bat for the sixth time.
A home run by new Phillies fan favorite Raul Ibanez against Pedro Feliciano had tied the score at 5 in the sixth. Feliciano had allowed a home run to another left-handed hitter, Chase Utley, on Friday night as well. The Mets nearly scored in the eighth when Carlos Beltran singled to left with pinch-runners Omir Santos and John Maine on second and first base. But Jayson Werth threw out Santos at the plate.
The Mets had scored three times in the sixth against Moyer to lead, 4-3. Moyer, taking his first run at his 250th career victory, retired he first two batters of the inning before Daniel Murphy and Ramon Castro hit home runs in successive at-bats, a Mets first this season. And before manager Charlie Manuel could remove his starter, pinch-hitter Alex Cora tripled to center field. Reliever Scott Eyre walked Jose Reyes before Luis Castillo finished off a contentious at-bat with a run-scoring single through the right side.
But the Mets had been at a deficit after two Phillies had batted.
"It's unfortunate, we had to fight back from the beginning," Manuel said.
And Perez, what could he say?
"I'm not helping my team," he said. "I feel disappointed. I'm not doing anything for my team."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.