After a couple of strong seasons as a situational lefty, Oliver Perez took a step back in 2016, with his walk rate shooting up to 11 percent, taking his ERA with it. At this stage of his career, the 35-year-old is exclusively a fastball-slider pitcher, but if he can tighten his control back up he still has a good enough strikeout rate to be effective. The Nationals have a number of younger southpaw bullpen options in their system, though, with Sammy Solis having already passed him on the depth chart, so Perez's days of seeing regular high-leverage work could be at an end.
Perez has yielded three runs over 2.1 innings to start this season in two appearances. Despite the small sample size, Perez's FIP has skyrocketed to 6.79 and his WHIP sits at 1.71. The 34-year-old primarily serves as a lefty specialist these days, and he's coming off a 4.95 ERA with 46 strikeouts over 40 innings last season.
Perez heads into 2017 as the top LOOGY in the Nationals' bullpen. Sammy Solis could see more high-leverage situations, but manager Dusty Baker is more likely to use Solis for a full inning, and turn to Perez when he needs to retire one specific left-handed hitter. The 35-year-old wasn't quite as dominant against same-side hitters last season as he's been in the past, but still allowed just a .227/.337/.384 slash line against them in 2016 with a 25.5 percent strikeout rate.
Perez (back) was deemed available for Tuesday's game by manager Dusty Baker, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. The lefty hasn't pitched in nearly a week due to lingering back stiffness, but evidently he showed enough on the side in recent days to gain clearance from the training staff. Perez has racked up 12 holds this year but has earned just two holds since the All-Star break, the last of which came back on July 28.
Perez has been unavailable recently due to back stiffness, and Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports suggests he could be placed on the disabled list if he is not available Monday. Perez hasn't pitched since Aug. 17 and allowed five earned runs over 1.1 innings in his last two appearances. The back may have played a role in those struggles, and it sounds as though the Nationals may make some kind of move Monday that requires an additional 25-man roster spot. If that's the case, Perez could be a candidate to go on the disabled list.
Perez (2-1) was awarded the win against the Mets after pitching two-thirds of an inning with one strikeout in the top of the sixth. Perez got in the game early after starter Lucas Giolito was limited to four innings by a rain delay, and got the victory thanks to Giolito's ineligibility. The win was all the more sweet coming against his former team, but don't expect the unusual circumstances surrounding this decision to repeat themselves any time soon.