Oliver Perez is back in New York this weekend.
Now a reliever with the Indians, the last active member of the 2006 NL East champion Mets is in his 17th season in the majors. His career was at a crossroads when he was pitching poorly for the Mets in 2009 and 2010 but he his now on his eighth MLB team.
Perez, who made his debut in 2002, has outlasted nearly everybody who came up that season. In fact, Cleveland bullpen coach Scott Atchison (a 2013 Met) made his debut in 2004 and played through 2015.
Perez spoke to NY Sports Day before Sunday’sgame in the Bronx.
NYSD: You’re the last guy still in the league from the ’06 Mets division champs.
OP: Wow. Time goes fast. That was a great memory. I think everybody remembers what happened in Game 7 in that building. One of my biggest moments in my career. That’s one of those teams you always remember and I watch the game once in awhile. I still get the butterflies so it’s great. That’s what it’s all about and I’ve been playing baseball for a long time and every moment is very special and that’s one of the big ones.
NYSD: Do you turn it off after the sixth inning when you watch?
OP: I don’t watch it after I finish pitching because after that I know everything that happened. I like to just see when I was pitching. After the catch, after that, I don’t watch it.
NYSD: How does this team compare to that one?
OP: Every team is different, you know. I like this team because we were having a tough time from the beginning and a couple of guys got hurt and you know what happened to Carrasco with his blood problem. We have a lot of good things too. We’ve got a lot of young guys and we’ve got a lot great moments with the team. We had the All-Star game at home, Bieber MVP, Santana hit a home run. That’s one of those things, you have to understand it’s a long season, anything can happen but at the same time we’re fighting for a spot for the playoffs and that’s great. We just have to play like every game is the playoffs. The last two games right here against the Yankees felt like two playoff games. That’s very important. I understand we lost those games but it’s baseball. Someone had to win and at the end of he day they won the last two games. So for us it’s very important to just compete today and trying to win.
NYSD: When you left the Mets, nobody knew where your career was going at that point. Are you surprised you’ve been able to add so much to your career out of the bullpen?
OP: Yeah. I think that was the best thing that happened to me, was deciding to move to the bullpen. I think when I signed with the Nationals and I talked with Spin Williams who used to be my pitching coach with the Pirates and he told me ‘All your career you always had success against lefties. You want to come back to the big leagues quicker then if you move to the bullpen you can come back quicker and have a new career’ and that’s what I did. I played winter ball, I feel great, I got a minor league deal with Seattle and they called me up. I’m here and I’m really proud of everything and I just have to enjoy it and do my best every single day to be ready for my team.
NYSD: Do you ever get used to playing for so many different teams?
OP: Now I feel more relaxed because I know a lot of people and I think my tough time is learning names. Because now you go to a new team, you have to know the trainer, the coaches, some players. There’s a bunch of people around the teams like video guys, special assistant, special doctors. So that’s a lot of names. At the same time it’s fun because it’s a new team. It’s great.
NYSD: Is there any advice you can give to somebody how to stay in the big leagues for 17 seasons?
OP: For me it’s trying to be consistent. First of all, it’s trying to be healthy and understanding your body. When you feel something, when you’re hurt, when there’s soreness, you have to tell the trainers. Because sometimes you want to be like a hero and don’t say anything. For me it’s trying to tell the truth and trying to do your best and do everything to be consistent on the field, off the field to let you relax and do the right thing in the game.