Struggling Perez may be placed on DL

Struggling Perez may land on DL

PHILADELPHIA -- The plan for the immediate future of Oliver Perez became murkier Sunday at a time when some new sense of structure and certainty was expected. The Mets made no decision involving the troubled pitcher other than to exclude him from the pending turn of the rotation, a decision made easier because of Sunday's rainout and a decision with few lasting consequences.

Before the team flew to Atlanta on Sunday, manager Jerry Manuel still was uncertain, though he, pitching coaches Dan Warthen and Randy Neimann and assistant general manager Tony Bernazard had discussed the possibilities. As was the case Saturday, Perez's retaining a place in the rotation never was mentioned as an option. Moreover, Manuel noted starting Perez comes with potential costs beyond the likelihood of a poor performance -- "stress on the bullpen and on the mentality of the team," he said.

Manuel did say Perez could be used in relief this week. But he neither discounted an assignment to the Minor Leagues -- Perez would have to approve that -- nor re-assignment to the bullpen.

"When you don't have to make a decision," Manuel said, "why make a decision?"

What made the situation more unclear Sunday were two new factors -- Perez developed an injury, a sore right knee, and he became non-committal about accepting a Minor League assignment, if asked. Perez had said Saturday, following a performance he characterized as horrible, "If I need it, I'll have to go." But after meeting with club officials in the trainer's room Sunday, he hedged.

"I was so frustrated [Saturday], I [could have said] anything," Perez said.

Perez said the club had told him nothing and that he was more relaxed than he had been after allowing six walks, five hits and four runs in 2 1/3 innings Saturday.

"I can't say anything," he said more than once.

And Perez repeatedly said, "It's not my decision."

Once it seemed to be in response to whether he would accept the demotion. He was anything but clear. Of course, the decision to accept demotion -- if asked -- is his alone. He didn't say whether he had spoken with his agent, Scott Boras.

The injury was a new development. Perez made no mention of it after the game Saturday or at all before that. But an ice bag on his knee was conspicuous by its presence Sunday, prompting speculation -- among players and others -- that assignment to the disabled list had become another option for the club.

Three teammates, one who has become frustrated with Perez's poor pitching, said they knew nothing of the injury before Sunday. Manuel said he had noticed Perez "fussing with it [his knee]" after beating out an infield hit in the second inning. After he had dressed for the flight and the ice bag had been removed, Perez was asked which leg he had injured. He hesitated and looked down before indicating it was his right leg.

"The knee has been bothering me all season," Perez said. "It doesn't feel good. This is my first time pitching with something that has bothered me. It's not easy."

Manuel already had said the possibility of assigning Perez to the DL has not been discussed with him.

The manager's suggestion that Perez could pitch in long relief seemed to indicate Manuel doesn't consider the injury serious. He said Perez could used in an extra-inning game, but how much could he be used in circumstances with so little margin for error, especially on the road. The Mets play in Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday nights. Having thrown 77 pitches -- 41 for balls -- Saturday, Perez probably wouldn't be available to pitch until Tuesday.

Without Perez, the rotation is this: John Maine and Livan Hernandez against the Braves and Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey against the Phillies at Citi Field on Wednesday and Thursday. Perez's start, pushed back because of the rainout, now would come against the Pirates on Friday night.

That assignment may go to Ken Takahashi, who impressed Manuel in his 2 2/3-inning cameo Saturday. The manager indicated Takahashi might have 65-pitch stamina.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.