Pérez brings perfect ERA into today's series finale

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Whether Cionel Pérez made the Orioles roster on opening day appeared to hinge on if they carried a third left-hander in the bullpen. He’d have to earn a job and co-exist with Paul Fry and Tanner Scott, far from a certainty with relievers who provide length coveted after a lockout and shrunken camp.

Then, Pérez strung together scoreless appearances like pearls. Six in a row totaling six innings. And the Orioles traded Scott and right-hander Cole Sulser to the Marlins.

Co-existing turned into being the first lefty used on opening day. Pérez got the sixth with the score tied, Fry entered in the eighth with two outs, the bases loaded and a Orioles down by a run.

Pérez induced a fly ball and struck out two batters. Another pearl on the strand.

“I think it shows great confidence, and I appreciate that,” Pérez said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. “I’m super excited to see how it goes the rest of the year. I’m ready to be in the game during those situations.”

The Orioles selected Pérez off waivers from the Reds on Nov. 24, about a week before the lockout. The 40-man roster became full.

Pérez was out of options, so he had to make the team in spring training or be exposed to waivers. Each appearance pushed him closer to Tropicana Field for opening day, his second after beginning 2021 with the Reds.

“I knew in the offseason I had really good preparation, so I felt good coming into camp and I felt good about my chances of making the team,” he said. “And sure enough, things turned out pretty well.”

Pérez, 25, was a prominent international signing out of Cuba by the Astros back in 2016, when Orioles executive vice president/general manager worked in their front office. He’s on a roll that eluded him in the majors, where he’s registered a 5.92 ERA and 1.548 WHIP in 46 games and 6.1 walks per nine innings.

His spring training wasn’t just about keeping runners from crossing the plate. He allowed only three hits, walked two batters and struck out seven.

The fastball on Friday was 96-97 mph while striking out Mike Zunino and Josh Lowe.

“Really working on my command, the movement of my pitches,” he said. “There’s been a lot of focus in the offseason. And on loading up when I pitch, and the transferring of the weight to my front leg during my delivery. That’s really been a big focus, and that’s helping me out a ton so far this season.”

The Rays had eight players in yesterday’s lineup who batted from the left side or were switch-hitters. They probably won’t deviate much today with right-hander Tyler Wells making his first major league start.

Pérez could be an important weapon again. Maybe the first left-hander out of the bullpen. It won’t be Keegan Akin, who threw 31 pitches yesterday in three scoreless innings.

A tandem setup with Wells could put Mike Baumann or Dean Kremer in the game. Kremer also is a candidate to start Tuesday night at home.

If Wells can provide enough length, and the Orioles won’t push him far, they could line up the same crew they used on opening day.


Orioles and Rays lineups
O's play it close, but still looking for a win ove...

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