Oliver’s twists, turns keep owners on their toes

To say that left-hander Oliver Perez suffered through a tough year last season would kind of be like saying George Steinbrenner has a slight penchant for spending freely on baseball players.

Perez’s 2006 numbers — split between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets — were inexcusably awful, as the Mexico native went just 3-13 with a 6.55 ERA, leaving many people wondering whether he would ever return to the pitcher that went 12-10 with a 2.99 ERA for Pittsburgh in 2004.

Thankfully for Mets fans — and fantasy owners — the 25-year-old has emerged from his dismal 2006 campaign (as well as recent injury problems) to become one of New York’s most reliable starters.

In 17 starts, Perez has posted a 9-6 record with a 3.00 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 108 innings for the NL East-leading Mets. After being traded to New York last season, Perez appeared to lack the confidence to pitch for a top-tier club, but this season, he has proven invaluable for a team that just missed a trip to the World Series last year.

Perez’s most impressive quality this season may be his short memory, especially considering the struggles he endured in 2006. As was the case for most of his Mets teammates, June was a month Perez would like to forget, as he went just 1-3 with a 4.06 ERA before being sent to the disabled list with a back injury. However, after returning, Perez has once again begun to resemble the pitcher who was dominant in May (when he went 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA).

In his two starts (4-1 and 5-2 victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds), Perez surrendered just three earned runs on 12 hits, while striking out 14 (his highest total in back-to-back starts since April 27 and June 2) in 13¹/³ innings.

Perez’s scary June may have unpleasantly reminded many fantasy baseball owners of his forgettable 2006, causing many to remove him from their regular lineup. Now, with a couple of solid starts under his belt, Perez should be winning back confidence (and racking up wins) with each appearance.

WHO’S HOT?

» Noah Lowry, SP, Giants

» Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

» Jason Marquis, SP, Cubs

» Kason Gabbard, SP, Red Sox

» Lastings Milledge, OF, Mets

WHO’S NOT?

» Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins

» Dontrelle Willis, SP, Marlins

» Brendan Harris, IF, Devil Rays

» Jack Cust, OF, A’s

» Julian Tavarez, SP, Red Sox


Will Perez return to his days as an ace?

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