NEW YORK (WFAN) – Mets fans may not agree, but Oliver Perez wants to start for New York.
“I think why I’m here has always been as a starting pitcher,” Perez said Monday after reporting to the Mets’ spring training complex. “I have to focus about the team. If they need me in the bullpen for one out, or a long reliever or starter, I’m going to be available.”
Perez met with new Mets manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson on Monday, and it was decided the on-again, off-again lefty will get a shot at New York’s starting rotation.
“I’ve seen the numbers and heard all the stories,” Collins said. “I’m going to make my own evaluations. People do change sometimes.”
Collins knows that Perez isn’t exactly a fan favorite.
“I can’t live my life worrying about what someone else thinks, and I’m certainly well aware of the thought process,” he said. “Oliver is determined to prove people wrong, and we’ll see how he comes out.”
Perez has one year at $12 million left on his contract with the Mets. After barely playing under Jerry Manuel in 2010, he said New York’s front office “changed for a good reason.”
“Everyone knows what happened the last two years,” said Perez. “Now it’s a new year, a new manager, new everything.”
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Perez improved quite a bit this winter in Mexico, and looked good at camp yesterday.
“He started getting more energy by the end, 88-92, numbers we like,” said Warthen. “I thought he looked better here today than any time last year.”
Warthen also commented on Perez’s improved conditioning.
“He seemed strong today,” he said. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger.”
Perez realizes he has a tough road to hoe, but is up for the challenge.
“I’m still young, I’m 29. I’m not going to give up,” he said. “It’s going be tough, but anything can happen.”
Where do you want to see Ollie? In the rotation? In the bullpen? Sound off in the comments below!
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)