The Reds made a minor move Saturday they hope will pay off in a major way as they got ready for the second game of the Cactus League schedule against the Colorado Rockies.
They signed left-handed relief pitcher Oliver Perez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Perez, a 15-year veteran, spent the last two seasons with the Washington Nationals as a specialist used to pitch to left-handed hitters. He made 50 appearances last year, pitching 33 innings with no record and a 4.64 ERA
The 36-year old made his debut with the San Diego Padres in 2002 as a starter at age 20. His career led him to Pittsburgh, the New York Mets, Seattle, Arizona and Houston before he signed with the Nationals for the 2016 season.
The Padres signed Perez in 1999 out of Culican, Mexico. He was a starting pitcher most of his career, won a career-high 15 games for the Mets in 2007 and followed up with a 10-win season.
The Reds plan to use Perez to get left-handed hitters out in late-game situations.
”We don’t have a lot of left-handed relief depth, at least of the experienced nature,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He has a track record of being very, very tough on left-handed hitters. He has really found a niche in that role. He’s been durable.”
If Perez sticks with the Reds, Price will have more maneuverability in the bullpen.
“We understand there is a lot of youth in our pitching,” Price said. “We’ve been vulnerable with inexperience both in the bullpen and starting rotation in recent years. Trying to segue from starter to closer is challenging when you don’t have experience.”
The Reds were the first team to contact Perez.
“I like new teams for the fresh air,” Perez said. “The Reds wanted me so I’m excited to be here.”
Siri injured: Jose Siri collided with the center-field wall chasing a triple by the Indians’ Richie Shaffer in the eighth inning of the Reds’ 6-4 win Friday.
Siri, who had a 39-game hitting streak for the Dayton Dragons last season, had the wind knocked out of him and left the game. He suffered ligament damage to his left thumb, which has been immobilized.
Siri will be out an indefinite period and will take weeks to heal.
The Reds were eager to evaluate Siri, who will likely start the season at Daytona or Pensacola.
“I loved the effort, trying to run that ball down in center,” Price said. “We’ve heard a lot about the kid. This would have been a really nice opportunity to see him play.”
Escape from the pen: Michael Lorenzen started Saturday against the Rockies, beginning his quest to return to the starting rotation.
Lorenzen was a starter when the Reds first brought him to the big leagues in 2015, making 21 starts with a 4-9 record and a 5.40 ERA.
The 26-year-old suffered a sprained right elbow and was placed on the disabled list the day before Opening Day in 2016.
Lorenzen, who played center field at Cal State-Fullerton, pitched out of the bullpen for the Reds the last two seasons. Last year, he appeared in 70 games building an 8-4 record with 4.45 ERA.
The Reds put him in competition with Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle and Robert Stephenson for the fifth starting spot in the rotation. Lorenzen would stay in the bullpen if he doesn’t win the rotation job.
Finnegan MIA: Brandon Finnegan’s name has been absent from the Cactus League pitching schedule.
Price named the left-hander to his starting rotation on the first day of camp, in spite of two on-field injuries and surgery to his right shoulder from an injury on a boat.
“Finnegan threw yesterday,” Price said Saturday. “He’ll have two days off and throw again. Right now we’re ticketed for right around the first of the month. There was no setback. We wanted to take a more cautious approach with him.”
In the field: Dilson Herrera started at second base against Colorado.
The 24-year old, acquired from the Mets in the Jay Bruce trade, will battle for that vacant job.
Herrera missed most of spring training last spring with persistent shoulder pain. He played 68 games with Louisville before surgery to repair a shoulder impingement on Aug. 1.
He was the designated hitter against the Indians on Friday. The Reds plan to alternate heavy throwing days with designated-hitting appearances.