PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) - Oliver Perez said he's focused on helping the New York Mets, not on the possibility that he could be the next high-priced player that's released by the team after Luis Castillo was Friday.
Perez is fighting for a roster spot as a lefty specialist in the Mets' bullpen. He labored through an inning just hours after Castillo was dropped, but kept the Atlanta Braves off the board as the Mets went on to win 3-0.
The 29-year-old Perez is in the final year of a three-year, $36 million contract. However, the release of Castillo shows the Mets aren't afraid to absorb large contracts if it will help the team. Perez has been ineffective since winning 15 games in 2007 season and has lost velocity since 2009 knee surgery.
``Every time I come in here and I don't hear anything, I am going to do everything I can to get better to help my team,' Perez said. ``I don't think about it. I come in and get ready.'
Castillo, a second baseman, was cut Friday morning despite being in the final year of a four-year, $25 million contract. He was part of a five-man competition for second base.
Entering the game in the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead, Perez fell behind in the count to his first batter, Nate McLouth, before getting him to fly to the warning track in right field. Perez struck out Jason Heyward, then walked a batter before ending his outing by catching a popup to the mound, a play he said might have looked awkward because he was blinded by the sun.
``I feel good,' Perez said. ``That's my new situation now - lefty. I came in behind and Duda made a really big play.'
David Wright drove in all three runs for the Mets, finally finding a rhythm after batting just .200 through his first 11 exhibition games.
He had an RBI single in the fourth inning, then hit a two-run homer to left in the sixth inning for his first home run of the spring.
``It's a process where you get to the point of feeling comfortable right toward the end of spring and hope it carries over to the start of the season,' Wright said. ``We've still got a long way to go, two weeks to refine some things. I just need to work on some things.
It's a slow, kind of frustrating process because you take a few months off and feel kind of lost out there for the first couple weeks,' he added. ``I feel better and better each day, and hopefully it's working up to that.'
Braves starter Jair Jurrjens gave up three runs - two earned - on five hits with two strikeouts and no walks in six innings.
He was perfect through the first three innings, but Jose Reyes reached on an error in the fourth.
Reyes was called out at home trying to score while Angel Pagan was stretching a single into a double. Pagan ended up scoring on Wright's single and also was on base in the sixth when Wright homered.
``I made a lot of bad pitches,' Jurrjens said. ``I got hit hard. ... We didn't show them in a lot. We only went away and made them feel too comfortable at the plate, and when you get your hand extended, you can hit the ball really hard. I need to work on righties a little more and try to make them go back and forth.'
Mets starter D.J. Carrasco, a likely long reliever, allowed one hit and one walk in three innings. The rest of the Mets' staff combined to give up just three more hits.
Heyward went 0 for 2 in his second game back from a four-day absence with a sore back.
NOTES: Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran received a cortisone shot Friday in his left knee. Beltran has tendinitis in the knee caused by compensating for his surgically repaired right knee. He is expected to resume baseball activities Saturday. ... In addition to releasing Castillo on Friday, the Mets optioned right-hander Dillon Gee to minor league camp and reassigned right-hander Boof Bonser and Ryota Igarashi, lefty reliever Taylor Tankersley, catchers Dusty Ryan and Raul Chavez, infielder Russ Adams and outfielder Jason Pridie.
The Associated Press News Service
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