- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

VIERA, Fla. | Odalis Perez, who was unemployed 12 days ago before agreeing to a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, now believes he deserves a better deal.

And he doesn’t intend to report to spring training until that happens.

On the day Nationals pitchers and catchers held their first workout of the spring, Perez remained at home in the Dominican Republic. The 31-year-old left-hander is not taking calls from the club, and he has given no indication when he will arrive in Florida.

“I thought it best, and I prefer to sit in my house if the Nationals do not show more appreciation for my work,” Perez told ESPNdeportes.com. “Appreciate my work means to increase the value of the contract and guarantee it. I will not accept any minor league contracts with no safeguards.”

As far as the Nationals are concerned, Perez agreed on Feb. 5 to a nonguaranteed, minor league contract that would pay him $850,000 if he makes the Opening Day roster.

General manager Jim Bowden said Monday evening there is no dispute about the validity of the deal.

“We agreed to terms on a contract with Odalis Perez,” Bowden said. “The contract has been recognized and confirmed with both the players association and [Major League Baseball‘s] labor relations department. And we expect Odalis Perez to fulfill his contract as we’ve prepared to fulfill our end of it.”

Though Nationals pitchers and catchers were asked to report to spring training Saturday, that date is considered voluntary. The league requires all players to report by Feb. 22 or else face disciplinary action.

Players who are participating in next month’s World Baseball Classic are required to report by Tuesday. Perez is listed on the Dominican Republic’s preliminary roster and he said he intends to pitch in the event and showcase himself to other interested teams.

Asked whether Perez would face any discipline if he doesn’t report Tuesday, Bowden said: “As of this moment, the mandatory reporting date for him is the 22nd.”

If he does not meet the reporting deadline, Perez could be subject to suspension. Even if he does ultimately report, the Nationals could elect not to add him to the major league roster and force him to report to Class AAA Syracuse (preventing him from signing with any other club).

A call placed to Perez’s cell phone was met with a recorded message saying it was not accepting calls.

A 10-year veteran with a career 73-82 record and 4.46 ERA, Perez has struggled to secure big contracts the last two offseasons. He signed with the Nationals last spring after camp had begun, agreeing to a similar minor league deal worth $850,000. He wound up making the club and actually started on Opening Night before going 7-12 with a 4.34 ERA in 30 starts.

Perez spent this past offseason again looking for work. He remained unemployed until a week before camps opened around the league, then finally settled on the nonguaranteed contract with Washington on Feb. 5.

Perez may try to argue he only agreed verbally to the deal with the Nationals, but Bowden said there is paperwork confirming the contract.

“We have a verbal agreement and a signed term sheet, and it’s been acknowledged by both sides,” the GM said. “And it’s binding. We expect him to honor his contract to the team and honor his agreement to the team.”

Though he wasn’t assured of a spot on the Nationals’ Opening Day roster, Perez appeared to have a strong chance of being in the rotation when camp breaks. Manager Manny Acta has said only three spots are secure at this point: left-handers John Lannan and Scott Olsen and right-hander Daniel Cabrera. Perez would be battling with a group that includes Shawn Hill, Collin Balester and Jordan Zimmermann for the final two slots.

Perez was one of three pitchers not present for Monday’s workout adjacent to Space Coast Stadium. Reliever Jorge Sosa remains in the Dominican Republic dealing with a visa issue. Cabrera was given permission to fly home and tend to his wife, who was scheduled to give birth via Caesarean section on Monday.

Asked about Perez’s whereabouts, Acta said: “We’re trying to get a hold of him and find out about him being here. I’m sure that guys don’t want to miss the first reporting date, but until [Feb. 22], we don’t make a big deal out of it.”

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