- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. (AP) - Oliver Perez is headed to the New York Mets bullpen, likely his last chance to make the team.

The left-hander allowed his first four batters to reach base Tuesday against the Houston Astros in his final opportunity to prove he could be a starter. Overall, he gave up three runs on four hits and two walks in three innings.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen met Wednesday and made the decision to remove him from the starting rotation competition. In two starts, Perez is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA and five walks in seven innings.

“I talked to Ollie today and told him we had decided we think the place where he would probably help us the most is being a situational lefty,” Collins said. “He said he understood, and he’s going to do the best he can to help us in the bullpen.”

Perez, whose velocity has been down since a 15-win 2007 season, was 1-6 with a 5.94 ERA in seven starts to begin last season before being moved to the bullpen. He went on the disabled list with patella tendinitis in his right knee on June 5 and made just six appearances the rest of the season.

Perez is owed $12 million in the last season of a $36 million, three-year contract.

Alderson said he saw some “improvements in certain areas and some encouraging signs” Tuesday, but apparently it wasn’t enough.

“Again, to some extent we’re result based, and that’s not necessarily the line score but velocity and various other things, location,” Alderson said. “So, I like to take that into account.”

Perez said Tuesday he felt he deserved another start, but manager Terry Collins said there were too many other players ahead of him and it would be too difficult to stretch all of them out this late in camp.

Collins said Perez will pitch Saturday against the Braves, and he hopes to put him in situations against left-handed hitters. Perez has limited lefties to a .226 batting average during his nine-year big league career.

“He’s in a completely new role,” Collins said. “I told him I think it’s a great, fresh start for him, and we’ll see what comes out of it.”