SAN DIEGO -- A lot of fans, and baseball people, wrote off Oliver Perez after he was released by the Mets as a struggling starter prior to the 2011 season.
But the veteran left-hander is in the process of re-inventing himself as a reliever, and is off to a nice start since being called up by the Mariners last weekend.
Perez, 30, threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the D-backs earlier this week, allowing one hit, one walk and three strikeouts in his first Major League outings since the Mets released him with $12 million still left on his contract after he went 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA in 17 games in 2010.
"I worked really hard to get to this moment, and what I have to do now is keep playing the same way and just enjoy it and keep going," said Perez, who signed with Seattle on a Minor League deal this spring after a strong Winter League showing in his native Mexico.
"It was a tough three years, but when you work hard and don't give up, sometimes everything works out."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge is encouraged by what he's seen so far.
- 142 wins
- 110 wins
Perez had some leg problems that led to decreased velocity in his final two seasons with the Mets, but he's healthy now and has been throwing the ball harder the past six months. He said he was hitting 88-92 mph in Winter Ball, then was up to 90-94 mph this spring.
Now he seems to be even a tick or two faster, partly because he's healthier, and partly because he said he's able to throw 100 percent in shorter relief roles.
Perez is feeling so good, he's unleashed his trademark leap over the basepath as he comes off the field, a sure sign that he's feeling happy. He said the second chance has given him renewed baseball life.
"I feel like every time I'm on the mound, I have that energy," Perez said. "I love the game and I'm having fun. Something can happen to anybody. Somebody can get hurt, sometimes you don't play anymore. That's why I never gave up. One of those days last year I thought about just going home and that's it, but I said, 'No, this is your job and you can play more years.'
"This is a good opportunity. Right now, I'm a reliever and this can be like my second job."
Red-hot Wells remains in starting lineup
SAN DIEGO -- Casper Wells was back in the lineup again on Friday for the Mariners, as manager Eric Wedge looked to keep his hot bat going.
The 27-year-old outfielder has started six of nine games since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, and has come in as a late-inning replacement in two others.
Wells brought a seven-game hitting streak into Friday's series opener against the Padres, having hit .524 (11-for-24) with five runs, six RBIs and one home run during that span.
"A lot of it was just getting to play again," Wells said. "The anxiety and anticipation builds up when you don't get to play much. Getting down there [to Triple-A] and playing got me at ease and got me to trust what I was working on.
"The last time I'd really played was Spring Training and even then I was kind of behind the eight-ball, after not playing for such a while with everything that happened last year. So it was kind of like my Spring Training, going down to Tacoma, and now I'm back here and ready to go."
Wells was hitting just .213 and playing sporadically at the time of his demotion to Triple-A on May 23, but has raised his average to .309 (21-for-68) with his hot streak since his return.
"I'm just playing with the mindset of doing whatever I can to help the team win," Wells said. "That's the only thing that needs to be done. So I'm going up there to battle the pitcher and be ready for every pitch. Then when that at-bat is over, you let it go and everything falls into place as it should.
"I'm trying to eliminate a lot of thoughts, just simplify it, go up and look for a pitch I can hit and hit it hard."
Wedge is looking to split time between Wells, Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez in left and center field. Saunders was the odd man out Friday as Wells got the call against left-hander Clayton Richard.
"He's playing good baseball, he's swinging the bat well," Wedge said. "We can't get everybody we want in there without the DH, so with Gut and Michael, we've got three games here and they'll probably all end up playing two of the three. We're just trying to do the best we can with it."
Montero sits again; will return Saturday
SAN DIEGO -- Rookie catcher Jesus Montero wasn't in the lineup on Friday as he got a third day off in a row, but manager Eric Wedge said he'll be back Saturday against the Padres.
With no designated hitter in the Interleague road games, Montero has only been used at catcher this week. He caught the first two games in Arizona, then had Wednesday off. Combined with Thursday's off-day, Wedge had the opportunity to give the 22-year-old his longest break of the season.
"I wanted to do that," Wedge said. "I think it's a good time for him to have a couple days where mentally and physically he can get away from it a little bit. And we'll get him back in there tomorrow."
First baseman Justin Smoak was back in the lineup Friday after sitting out Wednesday with a sore right knee, after fouling a ball off his leg on Tuesday.
"He feels good," Wedge said. "He's still a little sore, but more than able to go."
When Lucas Luetge allowed a double on Wednesday in Arizona, it was the first extra-base hit the Rule 5 rookie had allowed this season in 26 appearances, the second-longest streak to begin a season in Mariners history. Jeff Nelson set the record at 30 games in 2001.
It was the longest streak by a Mariners pitcher to begin his career, breaking the mark of 14 set by Rod Scurry in 1988.
Mike Zunino, the Mariners first-round Draft pick, was named the 2012 College Player of the Year by Baseball America. The Florida catcher is also a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Johnny Bench Award.
The Everett AquaSox will retire former Mariner outfielder Greg Halman's No. 26 jersey in a ceremony prior to Saturday's 7:05 p.m. game against Spokane. Halman, who died in the Netherlands last November, played for the Class A club in 2006 and '07.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, a huge Miami Heat fan, watched his favorite team clinch the NBA title on Thursday at a gathering of several teammates and their families at Brandon League's home in San Diego.
Hernandez said he loves the Heat because he's a fan of Dwayne Wade, but he recognizes that was a popular position in Seattle as well, since angry Sonics followers were rooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"They should have a parade in Miami and a parade in Seattle," Hernandez said with a grin.
Outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, who was designated for assignment on June 16 to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Oliver Perez, cleared waivers and is back on the roster at Double-A Jackson.