Mets send struggling Perez to bullpen
Club hasn't decided who will take lefty's spot in the rotation
MIAMI -- Unsatisfied with what Oliver Perez was giving them in the rotation, the Mets on Saturday demoted their erratic left-hander to the bullpen.
"We have to be fair to the team," manager Jerry Manuel said. "We have to do what's best for the team."
The Mets have not yet announced who will take Perez's spot next Wednesday in Washington, though Hisanori Takahashi appears to be the leading candidate.
Fifteen months after inking Perez to a three-year, $36 million contract, the Mets demoted him to the bullpen for the second time in a year. This time, it was a lack of velocity that hurt Perez, who fell to 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA after allowing seven runs in 3 1/3 innings Friday night in Miami.
"I don't like going to the bullpen, but I think that's what's best for the team," Perez said.
The Mets did not ask Perez to accept an assignment to Triple-A Buffalo, and Perez said he wouldn't accept that assignment if asked.
"I have to be here, because Buffalo is the Minor Leagues," Perez said. "I don't want to go there, because I want to find a way to pitch better here."
Despite showing some positive signs in early April, Perez has been wholly ineffective in May. Sitting in the mid-80s with his fastball and featuring an inconsistent slider, he has been unable to complete four innings in three of his four most recent starts.
After Perez walked seven batters in cold, windy conditions at Citi Field last week, Manuel said that he was not considering demoting him to the bullpen. But Perez allowed four homers Friday night, prompting a visibly upset Manuel to discuss the situation with his coaching staff Saturday.
Manuel then had a brief closed-door meeting with Perez before announcing the move.
To replace Perez, the Mets could tab Takahashi, who has been both invaluable and versatile for them in relief. Or they could call on Pat Misch or R.A. Dickey, both of whom have been pitching well for Buffalo.
Manuel may not decide this weekend, preferring to wait and see if he needs Takahashi in relief.
Though Perez may make his bullpen debut as soon as Sunday, the Mets do not plan on using him in high-leverage situations.
Reyes back in leadoff spot for Mets
MIAMI -- Clearly uncomfortable batting third in the lineup, Jose Reyes has returned to a cozier perch: leadoff.
"It feels like I'm going home to see my family," Reyes said after Mets manager Jerry Manuel moved him back to the leadoff spot for Saturday's game against the Marlins.
Rather than shift the slumping David Wright back to third in the lineup, Manuel tabbed Angel Pagan -- who had been hitting leadoff -- for the job. And more lineup changes may be on the way.
"I'd have to wake up tomorrow morning and see how I feel," Manuel said. "There could possibly be some other things I might try."
Though the Mets began seeing some success shortly after Manuel moved Reyes to the No. 3 spot last month, Reyes personally struggled, hitting .207 in 20 games there. He has admitted to changing his approach both at the plate and on the bases.
Many of his struggles can be attributed to the fact that Reyes still does not appear fully back to speed after missing the beginning of the season with a thyroid issue. But both Manuel and Reyes believe a move back to the leadoff spot could spark him.
"The mindset is different when you lead off," Reyes said, noting that he saw many more breaking balls hitting third. "In the beginning, I was saying it's the same baseball. But it's a little different there. They pitch you different there."
Asked if he was pleased to be back in the leadoff spot, Reyes replied: "Yes. Yes. Yes."
"If he is delighted, that's good," Manuel said. "That's a good thing."
Reyes has batted leadoff in 722 of his 823 career games.
Beltran pays Mets a visit
MIAMI -- Rehabbing slugger Carlos Beltran visited the Mets on Saturday, greeting his teammates and updating them on his condition.
Beltran refused to talk to the media, saying through a team spokesman that he did not want to be a "distraction."
"He seems to feel good," manager Jerry Manuel said. "He said he's swinging the bat extremely well."
Beltran, who underwent right knee surgery in January, has been rehabbing two hours north of Sun Life Stadium at the Mets' Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He recently began running and swinging a bat and should progress to full baseball activities soon.
Four hours prior to game time, Beltran was seen giving Jeff Francoeur batting tips on the field in Miami.
Blanco returns from bereavement list
MIAMI -- Backup catcher Henry Blanco returned from the bereavement list earlier on Saturday, citing his ailing mother's improved health.
Blanco, who left the team Monday, is expected to start Sunday's matinee at Sun Life Stadium. The Mets optioned Josh Thole to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Blanco on the 25-man roster.
With help from Mets general manager Omar Minaya, Blanco is attempting to bring his mother to the United States to receive improved medical care. If he is able to bring his mother to New York instead of Miami, he should not have to leave the team again.
"You've got to do everything for your mom," Blanco said. "I'm fine now. I know it's going to be better."
Righty reliever Ryota Igarashi allowed two runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning Saturday during a rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie. The Mets have said that Igarashi needs to pitch in back-to-back games with St. Lucie before graduating to a more advanced affiliate, then rejoining the big league club. ... Catcher Rod Barajas and second baseman Luis Castillo will both receive routine days off on Sunday. ... The Mets' four road wins are their fewest in the first 15 games of a season since 2003.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.