3/10/2013 12:49 P.M. ET
Perez back with Mariners after Classic incident
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- With his Mexican team eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, Oliver Perez rejoined the Mariners on Sunday and was immediately greeted with hugs and good-natured howls from teammates who'd seen him on television the night before smack in the middle of a wild ninth-inning, bench-clearing incident with Canada.
The veteran left-hander, one of seven players ejected from the Mexico-Canada game at Chase Field in Phoenix on Saturday, said things got out of hand in a hurry after Mexico's Arnold Leon hit Rene Tosoni with a pitch after Canada had bunted with a 9-3 lead.
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As the benches emptied, some wild punches were thrown as players pushed and shoved. And Perez was right in the middle of the action until being restrained by teammates.
"Everyone just reacted," Perez said Sunday in the Mariners' clubhouse. "Sometimes people push too hard and you can get mad. Normally when you go [out] there, you're trying to separate your teammates so nobody can get hurt. When fights go wild, anybody can get hurt and that can hurt your career. That's a tough time.
"But when you're in there, it's just reaction. You don't want anybody to punch or push you. We're humans. And in those moments, you just react. That's how the game is. Nobody wanted to get hurt, but it's a man's sport, and sometimes one gets mad and everything happens."
Perez said it was the first time he'd been in such an incident since he hit a batter while pitching in a Mexican League.
"But that wasn't on purpose," he said. "And that was like 18 years ago ..."
His Mariners teammates were happy to see Perez back in camp, but couldn't let the moment pass without a little good-natured ribbing.
"Hey, you OK?" fellow reliever Josh Kinney said as he clapped Perez on the shoulder. "Are your knuckles all right?"
Perez said he never saw Mariners teammate Michael Saunders, who plays for Canada, during the brawl. Perez said most of the scene was largely a blur until he caught the replays on TV himself.
"After the game, you still are thinking, 'What's going on? What happened?'" Perez said. "And when you start to see the tapes, you see it different when you are outside the lines. But when you are there, you don't have words to say. You just react."
Perez pitched to only one batter in the tournament, getting a quick out during Mexico's 5-2 upset victory over the United States. While he'd have liked to pitch more, he won't soon forget the drama of that win and what it meant for his team and country.
"First of all, it was a really good experience when you represent your country," Perez said. "It's not every year you can do that. So you're really happy because they want you to be on the team and you feel proud of your country and all the work you do.
"Normally when you're trying to be one of the best teams, USA is one of the best teams and inside it's very emotional. This is the second time I think we've beat the USA, and they've got a pretty good lineup and a good chance to win. Canada has a really good team, too.
"This tournament is getting better every year. You see Italy, they don't have a lot of big names, but they just want to win. They're doing everything right, and I think that's why they're going to the second round."
Perez now returns to a Mariners team that gave him a chance to revive his own career last season. After getting released by the Mets, he signed a Minor League deal with Seattle and was one of the better comeback stories in baseball as he posted a 2.12 ERA in 33 relief appearances.
Perez wasted no time returning to work after learning that Mexico was eliminated.
"If USA had lost [to Italy], we'd still have a chance today," he said. "But they won, so we are already eliminated. And tomorrow [the Mariners] are off, so I had to get in here to do something."