WASHINGTON -- The Pirates are, quite literally, weighing all their options with struggling starter Oliver Perez.
General manager Dave Littlefield confirmed yesterday Perez "has options" remaining and could be demoted to the minor leagues without having to clear waivers.
Asked if the team is considering such a move, Littlefield replied: "As people continue to struggle at whatever position, whether it's at bat or at pitching, you have to consider all alternatives. If the struggles continue for an extended period, you have to be willing to look at anything to try get them straightened out, to get them back to the level they've performed at previously."
Littlefield said the Pirates' immediate focus regarding Perez is to help him regain his command.
"I know Jim Tracy and Jim Colborn are working on this, but we've got to get him to throw more strikes. That's a simple thing to say, but it's not happening to the extent that we need it to. We need to get his delivery, his release point and his focus and concentration where they need to be."
Perez took the initiative in the past week to revert to the 2004 delivery that brought him success -- "My decision," he called it after falling to 1-5 Friday night -- and Tracy said he had no problem with it.
"Oliver's trying. He's working very hard," Tracy said. "And he's hurting. He's hurting worse than all of us. But you have to crawl before you can walk. We're just going to keep working with him."
Perez is listed as the Pirates' starter Thursday against Arizona.
Littlefield continued to express optimism the Pirates' season will turn around despite one of the worst starts in franchise history.
"Our expectations were certainly higher, and it's disappointing, I think, for everybody," he said. "My responsibilities are to be in charge of the team, and I'm certainly disappointed in the hole that we've dug. But I still feel good about the fact that we've got a lot of good, young players. We've not performed at the level that we can and that we will. We've got talent, and that talent will play out over time."
Long reliever Ryan Vogelsong has shown improvement of late, having been charged with two earned runs in his past 9 2/3 innings -- including four scoreless innings Thursday and Friday -- to lower his ERA to 5.71.
Perhaps most impressive, given his history of erratic command, he has struck out six and walked two in that span.
"I'm just trying to get consistent," Vogelsong said. "The best thing for me has been my ability to recover."
Third baseman Joe Randa's injured right foot has shown little progress, and it appeared increasingly likely he will be moved to the 15-day disabled list. If that happens, it will be retroactive to April 29, so he would be eligible to return Saturday.
Asked why he would use Ryan Doumit at first base rather than right field -- a position he has played previously -- and supplant Jeromy Burnitz, who was batting .198, Tracy replied: "We need Jeromy Burnitz. We need him to do offensive things, and the only way to get that is to keep sending him out there."
The Pirates won in Washington for the first time since Oct. 12, 1925, when they took Game 5 of the World Series, 6-3, from the old Senators on the way to their second championship. They had been 0-4 at RFK Stadium.
Washington first baseman Daryle Ward, who hit 27 home runs for the Pirates the previous two seasons before leaving as a free agent, is batting .316 with two home runs in only 19 at-bats off the bench. "I'm just doing the most with the chances I get," Ward said.
INDIANAPOLIS (16-13) won at Durham, 8-2. LHP Sean Burnett (2-2, 6.63) allowed two runs and four hits in four innings. He struck out two, walked one and threw 41 of 71 pitches for strikes. SS J.J. Furmaniak (.248) went 3 for 5 with two RBIs. C Carlos Maldonado (.226) hit his second home run.
ALTOONA (18-11) lost to Reading, 9-7, in 13 innings. LHP Josh Shortslef (4-0, 2.91) allowed five runs in five innings. CF Vic Buttler (.279) went 4 for 5 with a double, walk and stolen base.
LYNCHBURG (13-15) beat Myrtle Beach, 8-3. RHP Matt Guillory (2-1, 5.04) allowed three runs in five innings. RF Brad Correll (.324) went 3 for 3 with a double and three RBIs.
HICKORY (11-17) lost at Greensboro, 8-7, in 11 innings. RHP Luis Valdez (2-1, 3.40) allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings. CF Andrew McCutchen (.333) went 2 for 5 with his fourth home run, three runs and a walk. RF Brad Corley (.225) went 3 for 6 with two doubles and three RBIs.