Pirates use postponement to push back Perez
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The rain never went away, and Oliver Perez will live to pitch another day.
But not until next week.
Perez was to start yesterday afternoon, likely with his spot in the rotation on the line, but the Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks were washed away at PNC Park by day-long showers. The game will be made up June 19 as another weekday matinee, 12:35 p.m. on a Monday.
The immediate result of the postponement: Management decided to have Perez skip a turn and not pitch again until Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. In the interim, he, pitching coach Jim Colborn and bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar will have had three side sessions -- two more than usual -- to work on stabilizing his erratic mechanics.
The first came on an indoor mound within minutes of the game being called yesterday, and the others will be tomorrow and Monday.
"The positive that comes out of this is the additional time our pitching people have available with Oliver," manager Jim Tracy said. "That's obviously very important because it's necessary for us to do everything we can to try to get this guy right. As we've said all along, we feel very strongly that he is an integral piece to our rotation."
Because Perez was pitching, he was unavailable for comment.
Perez, 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA, has been hit especially hard in his past three outings, giving up 15 runs, 19 hits and 11 walks while not lasting longer than five innings in any of them.
Although conflicting signals have been sent by management regarding Perez's problems, Tracy was adamant the staff can identify them precisely.
"We're not at a loss. Not at all," he said. "It's just a matter of getting Oliver Perez to the point where he understands what he needs to do to repeat his delivery pitch after pitch. That's the thing that's escaping him now. And, as a result, that's why his command goes awry. We hope the extra sessions will straighten that out."
The rest of the rotation will remain unchanged, with Victor Santos, Zach Duke and Ian Snell facing the Florida Marlins this weekend, beginning tonight.
Another possible advantage of the Pirates' move yesterday: If they had opted to use Perez tonight and pushed everyone else back, Duke would not have been available to pitch twice on the May 19-24 road trip to Cleveland and Phoenix.
The Pirates will be marginally inconvenienced by the June 19 makeup date. They are home for a series that ends the previous day, and they play at Kansas City the next day.
Arizona, by contrast, must squeeze in the game between road series against the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The decision to postpone was made by the Pirates -- the home team makes the call before a game, the umpires once it begins -- about 80 minutes after the scheduled 12:35 p.m. start, and it did not seem to sit well with Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, whose team is in contention in the National League West Division.
"It's a little confusing because we've got some time here," Melvin said. "But, for whatever reason, it's canceled. ... We're not in charge of that. But it makes it a tough trip."
Tickets for the game yesterday can be used June 19 or exchanged for any Sunday-Thursday home game the rest of the season.
Game: Marlins (Mitre 1-4) vs. Pirates (Santos 1-4), 7:05 p.m.
Where: PNC Park
TV/radio: FSN Pittsburgh/KDKA-AM (1020) and the Pirates Radio Network.
First Published May 12, 2006 12:00 am