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Inside Pitch: Percival ready to reload

Inside Pitch: Percival could help contender

Troy Percival, who hasn't pitched since 2005 and retired last April as a result of arm problems, has decided to make a comeback, according to his agent.

"He's working out and throwing bullpen sessions," agent Paul Cohen told MLB.com on Tuesday afternoon. "It's my guess you could see him back on the mound in a month."

If he proves he is completely healthy Percival, 37, should draw a lot of interest as a late-inning relief option in the current market as perhaps as many as half of Major League Baseball's 30 teams are looking for bullpen help.

According to sources, several teams in both leagues are interested in Percival. Cohen declined to discuss specifics regarding potential interest in his client.

Percival, who has 324 career saves, retired in April 2006 when he was a member of the Detroit Tigers. He had been battling forearm problems when he decided to retire and has been working for the Angels as a roving instructor since his playing career ceased.

Percival is willing to consider a role other than closing. Cohen said his client is open to any little inning role.

"Having been out a year and a half he's not of a mindset to insist on closing," Cohen said.

The Tigers have a closer in Todd Jones, but are without injured setup man Joel Zumaya and could use a healthy Percival in that slot.

The Angels are another possibility. Like the Tigers, the Angels are well set at the back end of the bullpen with closer Franciso Rodriguez and setup man Scot Shiels, but could use another late-inning option to replace Justin Speier, who is on the disabled list.

Other logical fits include the Red Sox (as insurance for right-hander Mike Timlin, currently on the DL), or perhaps the Indians, Mets, White Sox or the Giants.

Before suitors start coming forward Percival must first demonstrate that he is ready to help a contending team's bullpen.

He's not Roger Clemens, but if he's healthy Percival could certainly provide a boost to some team.

Pearls from the diamond
• Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was getting criticized in April, but his decisions to move Jon Lieber to the rotation and Brett Myers to closer look shrewd now. Lieber is 2-2 with a 2.50 ERA in six starts, including four quality starts, since joining the rotation. Myers, 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA as a starter, is 1-0 with an 0.96 ERA in 16 appearances out of the bullpen. He's converted five of six save opportunities and has struck out 28 and walked seven in 18 2/3 innings.

• As impressive as he was in his first Major League start, don't look for Detroit left-hander Andrew Miller to remain in the rotation beyond a possible start Thursday against the Angels if Jeremy Bonderman isn't ready to come off the disabled list. Tigers manager Jim Leyland believes Miller, the sixth player selected in last summer's First-Year Player Draft, needs more seasoning.

"He's got to get a better feel for his changeup and breaking ball," Leyland said. "He's got a chance to be special at some point. I also think that's it's very beneficial for him to go pitch [in the Minor Leagues]."

• New York Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson is another who deserves credit for turning around the careers of two veteran pitchers. Left-hander Oliver Perez is 5-3 with a 2.90 ERA and looking like the pitcher he was in 2004, when he won 12 games and had a 2.98 ERA in 30 starts for Pittsburgh. Perez was 7-5 with a 5.85 ERA in 2005 and a combined 3-13 with a 6.55 ERA for the Pirates and Mets last year. Perez is more consistent with his delivery this year, and it's meant fewer walks and more strikeouts.

Another Peterson project, right-hander Jorge Sosa, is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts. The 30-year-old is with his fourth organization in six years and has rediscovered the form that helped him go 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA for Atlanta two years ago.

• After a slow start, Houston right-hander Woody Williams turned in quality outings in four of his five starts and gave up four runs in seven innings in the other one. Though the right-hander had a setback in his most recent outing, Sunday against Texas (five earned runs in four innings), one scout believes it's only a matter of time before Williams puts together a winning streak.

"Woody always has the great curveball that he can throw for a strike any time," the scout said. "It's only a matter of innings before he's spotting his fastball consistently, and once he does that, he gets going."

• The best player in the National League right now? According to one scout, it's Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy. The Brewers shortstop is second behind Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees for the Major League lead in RBIs with 41 and leads the NL in home runs (14). Hardy is hitting .312.

"There's no way to pitch to him right now and get him out with any consistency," the scout said. "Pitch him away, he goes with it. Bust him inside, he puts it in the seats. He doesn't get cheated and he rarely swings at pitches out of the zone. And he's been huge in clutch situations. I don't think [Milwaukee] would be in first without him."

Shaun Marcum, Toronto's 25-year-old right-hander, held the Phillies hitless through the first four innings Saturday night. Combined with his previous outing, Marcum strung together 10 consecutive no-hit frames, equaling a club record shared by Dave Stieb (1990) and David Cone (1995). Marcum's hard-sinking fastball has been compared to Brandon Webb's.

• Several teams interested in Chris Burke have called the Astros following Burke's demotion to Triple-A Round Rock, but the Astros are telling teams Burke isn't on the trading block.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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