Add another name to the list of left-handed relievers the Nationals are targeting.
The Nationals, according a person familiar with the situation, have significant interest in Mariners free agent Oliver Perez, a 32-year-old whose resurrection as a reliever started when he pitched for Class AA Harrisburg in the Nationals’ system in 2011.
With Seattle last season, Perez struck out 73 batters in 53 innings with a 3.74 ERA. Left-handed batters hit .238/.358/.288 against him. In two years as a reliever with the Mariners, Perez has a 3.16 ERA in 82 2/3 innings.
After a downward spiral, Perez has become a legitimate major league pitcher again. Before the 2009 season, Perez signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the New York Mets. Control problems turned him into a symbol of the franchise’s wayward spending, and the team released him before 2011 despite owing him another $12 million.
The Nationals picked him up, and after rehabilitating himself in Harrisburg with the help of pitching coordinator Spin Williams, an old pitching coach from their days in Pittsburgh, Perez joined the Mariners and flourished as a reliever.
In their search for a left-handed reliever, the Nationals have also expressed interest in free agents Javier Lopez and Boone Logan. Manny Parra and J.P. Howell, two free agents the Nationals spoke with last winter, may also be options.
The Nationals have certainly cast a wide net for lefty relievers early in free agency, but General Manager Mike Rizzo said he still considers the Nationals in better shape now than at this point last season in the area. They have internal candidates Ian Krol, Xavier Cedeno and Fernando Abad. Rizzo also raised the idea of breaking in starting pitching prospect Sammy Solis, who has been excellent in the Arizona Fall League, as a reliever in the majors.