Rookie Perez Has Big Night For Nats

Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the fifth inning, his seventh of the year and first since July 14.
Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the fifth inning, his seventh of the year and first since July 14. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It is very late in a long, unproductive season, Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson figured, and the starting pitchers have been getting belted on a routine basis.

Time to look ahead, time to see if Beltran Perez had anything to offer beyond his five relief appearances since being summoned from Class AA a couple of weeks ago.

"I'm impressed by him. I'm impressed, I'm impressed," Robinson said following last night's 9-2 Washington victory over the Atlanta Braves, in which the Dominican right-hander yielded a first-inning single to Chipper Jones and nothing else, not even a random walk, in six sterling innings in front of an announced crowd of 20,596 at RFK Stadium.

Following Jones's hit to right field, Perez retired 16 in a row without much nuisance before being lifted for a pinch hitter after throwing 70 pitches. It provided the Nationals with their finest outing by a starter since Ramon Ortiz's near no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals two weeks ago.

Perez arrived in Washington on Sept. 2 from Harrisburg, where he went 8-6 with a 3.11 ERA, primarily as a reliever the first two months of the season and mostly as a starter the rest of the way. He had allowed just a run in 5 2/3 innings for the Nationals, but with the season lost and the club in need of finding starting candidates for next year, Robinson turned to the lanky 24-year-old.

Shifting between English and the use of an interpreter, Perez said he "just want to pitch, inning by inning, hitter by hitter, and see how it goes. I want to stay in the game because I didn't have a lot of pitches [70]. I don't know what happened."

What happened was that the Nationals were closely monitoring him because he had not started in more than a month. "I wouldn't let him," Robinson responded to suggestions that Perez could have gone longer.

Although Robinson would not commit to keeping Perez in the rotation for the final 12 days, he gave the impression that his new prospect would start this weekend in New York against the National League East champion Mets.

"On Friday we'll certainly have to let him know what he's doing or what his next assignment will be," Robinson said. "I think y'all know what that might be."

Most impressive to Robinson was that Perez did not issue any walks. A pair of strikeouts ended the fifth and a pair of popouts began the sixth. Facing his final batter of the evening, he got Marcus Giles to ground out to short.

"There are things that impress you about him," Robinson said. "He's very calm out there on the mound, he's a very cool customer, went after the hitters -- strike one, strike two, ball one."

Mixing a fastball and slider, catcher Brandon Harper said: "He had everything working, he located pretty well and his ball had some life to it. . . . He's here for a reason and he's got good stuff. He went after them. He wasn't afraid."

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