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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Admits playing in WBC robbed him of needed spring practice

While Perez enjoyed representing his country, he has a lot of catching up to do during the final two weeks of spring training. The Pirates want to get him back into his routine as soon as possible, so he will start and pitch two innings Sunday against Toronto on two days' rest. The 24-year-old Perez also understands the WBC might have delayed his development for this season -- he's pitched fewer innings (four) this spring than left-hander Paul Maholm did Saturday in a five-inning start against the Reds. Also, Perez's fastball was in the 86-88 mph range against the U.S., down considerably from the mid-90s he reached regularly while going 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 2004. Perez also had trouble getting his fastball into that range last season, when he finished 7-5 with a 5.85 ERA during a season interrupted for nearly two months by a broken toe. "I kind of expected he was going to be a little bit behind," catcher Humberto Cota said. (AP report published in Baltimore Sun).

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