For someone who was just demoted to the minor leagues, Oliver Perez was surprisingly upbeat Thursday afternoon.
The 24-year-old left-hander wasn’t upset with the Pirates’ decision to option him to Triple-A Indianapolis, a move that came two days after Perez was removed from the starting rotation.
Tom Gorzelanny, the Pirates’ top pitching prospect, will replace Perez in the rotation and start Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers.
“I’m disappointed, but at the same time it’s a good choice,” Perez said. “Right now, it’s hard to make changes here when you have problems. I have to go down and make everything fine.”
The team’s Opening Day starter this season, Perez was 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA in 15 starts. The 10 losses were tied for the most in the major leagues. In seven of those starts, he failed to work at least five innings.
Perez struggled with his control, allowing 51 walks in 76 innings. He also had just 61 strikeouts, a far cry from 2004, when he had 239 strikeouts and led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings.
Asked what he needed to improve upon, Perez said, “My mechanics, and I have to be more relaxed in the game. Sometimes, when I walk somebody, I start to think a little bit too much.”
The last time Perez pitched in the minors, other than on an injury rehabilitation assignment, was 2003, when he was with the San Diego Padres. He spent six weeks at Triple-A Portland during that stint.
For the foreseeable future, Perez will work with Indianapolis pitching coach Jeff Andrews, whose tutoring of left-handers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm has been praised throughout the organization.
“I worked with him in spring training, and he helped me a little bit,” Perez said. “It’s a good choice.”
Manager Jim Tracy said Perez would remain in Indianapolis for a “series” of starts.
“Our hope is he regains the consistency we’re looking for,” he said. “I firmly believe it’s in the best interest of Oliver. It’s a situation where we can get him in an environment where he can relax a little more.”
Gorzelanny, a 23-year-old left-hander, had a 6-5 record and 2.35 ERA in 16 starts for Indianapolis. Those numbers were bolstered by a 2-0 record and 0.45 ERA over his past three starts. Gorzelanny also was leading the International League with 94 strikeouts and ranked fourth in ERA.
“He’s deserving of this opportunity,” Tracy said. “It’s time to break him into this environment.”