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Perez ready for new chapter with Mets

Perez ready for new chapter with Mets

NEW YORK -- Ever since the ceremony in Culiacan, Mexico, this past December, Oliver Perez has been different. He's a husband, after all. And such monumental changes come with the implication of maturity -- if only in title alone.

The Mets, meanwhile, are holding out hope that Perez's newfound maturity will run even deeper, considering that maturity -- in fairness or not -- has always fueled the explanation of why Perez has never quite cashed in on all that potential. And now the Mets must keep their fingers crossed. They have invested three more years of their time and $36 million of their money in Perez, a calculated risk that made sense for both parties.

If Perez cannot improve on the inconsistent numbers that he produced over the past two and a half seasons with the Mets -- that is, if he can't ditch his maddening Jekyll and Hyde act -- then the Mets may come to regret their investment. But if he can tap the last reserves of potential that have surfaced in flashes, then he might certainly help the team reach the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Perez, for his part, is banking on the latter scenario.

"I've got this ring," he said on Tuesday afternoon, flashing his left hand, "and now I want to get another ring."

It seemed almost strange, in a sense, to hear him say something of that nature. During his previous time in New York, Perez rarely spoke so ideally. When he endured a bad start, he would offer a quick explanation and then trudge forward, answering nearly every question with the notion that another outing was merely four days away.

Rarely, if ever, in those talks was it apparent that Perez was overly distressed. And that's another perception that he is setting out to change.

"We have like a knife in the heart," Perez said, acknowledging the bitter endings of the past two seasons. "This was a really tough two years, and I want to have a championship with the Mets."

His words came at the SNY Studios in Manhattan, where Perez, on Tuesday afternoon, was reintroduced as a Met. After Derek Lowe signed with the Braves, Perez became the Mets' top target to fill the remaining void in their starting rotation. And lacking interest from most other teams, Perez became equally as enamored with the Mets.

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"I can tell you that some of our people liked Perez more than Derek Lowe," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "We wanted to come away with one of those guys. And to be able to do that, we really accomplished everything we set out to do this winter."

The deal, worth $36 million over three years, was finalized Tuesday, after Perez passed a physical in New York. And now Perez, after a quick trip home to Culiacan to pick up his bride, will head to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to begin working back into shape. His schedule is tight, considering that he is set pitch for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

There's reason, of course, to believe that Perez might succeed with the Mets. Despite an erratic fastball and a corresponding track record, Perez -- at only 27 years old -- has won 25 games over the past two seasons. That's tied with John Maine for the team lead. And if nothing else, Perez has shown a measure of durability, pitching 371 innings over that span.

Questions remain over whether he will be able to correct his inefficiencies, or if he has already reached his potential. Pessimists point to Perez's league-leading 105 walks last season, a figure that kept his victory total at 10. And optimists point to a stretch of 13 consecutive starts from June to September in which Perez lasted at least six innings -- a feat he had never before came particularly close to accomplishing in his career.

Guesswork aside, the fact remains that signing Perez was something of a gamble. Some believe that he has reached his ceiling. Some believe that there is room to improve. And until the next three seasons play out, it's impossible to tell which camp might be right.

The only certainty is that Perez will spend that time in New York, attempting to add one more piece of jewelry to his collection.

"I want to have a championship with the Mets," Perez said. "And now I have an opportunity."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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