PEORIA, Ariz. — While his teammates watched the replay intently every time it was shown on the clubhouse television, Oliver Perez went about his business.
There was no need for Perez to watch the highlights of the now infamous fight between Mexico and Canada during Saturday night’s World Baseball Classic qualifying game in Phoenix.
As the replays showed, he was in the middle of it.
Playing for Mexico, the veteran Mariners pitcher tried to keep his composure in the scrum of baseball players who were pushing, shoving and eventually punching each other.
“Everyone just reacted,” Perez said Sunday morning. “Sometimes people push too hard and you can get mad. Normally when you go out there, you’re trying to separate your teammates so nobody can get hurt. When fights go wild, anybody can get hurt and that can hurt your career.
“That’s a tough time. But when you’re in there, it’s just reaction. You don’t want anybody to punch or push you. We’re humans. And in those moments, you just react.”
Initially, Perez was a peacemaker, then a Canadian player grabbed him and put him in a head-lock. After that, it took two teammates to hold the incensed Perez back.
“That’s how the game is,” Perez said. “Nobody wanted to get hurt, but it’s a man’s sport and sometimes one gets mad and everything happens.”
After things cooled off, seven players, including Perez, were ejected.
“After the game, you still are thinking, ‘What’s going on? What happened?’” he said. “And when you start to see the tapes, you see it different when you are outside the lines. But when you are there, you don’t have words to say. You just react.”
Perez never did see Mariners teammate Michael Saunders, who’s on the Canadian roster, during the fight.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was just happy neither of his players were hurt.
“I’m glad they didn’t get into it with each other, that’s for sure,” Wedge said chuckling. “It’s baseball and every now and then with the competition, the adrenaline takes over, the intensity takes over and it gets away from you a little bit.”
But for Perez, the fight won’t be his lasting memory. Getting to pitch in Mexico’s 5-2 win over the U.S. on Friday night will be something he won’t forget. In front of a packed house at Chase Field, with almost 75 percent of the fans cheering for Mexico, Perez and his teammates stunned the Americans. Mexico has now beaten the U.S. in the last two WBC meetings. Perez, who faced one batter in relief, said he would have loved to pitch more. But earning a win was more important.
“Normally when you’re trying to be one of the best teams, USA is one of the best teams, and inside it’s very emotional,” he said. “This is the second time I think we’ve beat the USA and they’ve got a pretty good lineup and a good chance to win. Canada has a really good team.”
Though neither Mexico nor Canada advanced, Perez is a fan of the tournament. And you can bet he will try to play again in three years.
“This tournament is getting better every year,” he said. “You see Italy, they don’t have a lot of big names, but they just want to win. They’re doing everything right and I think that’s why they’re going to the second round. It’s a great experience.”
The Mariners announced that the start time for their June 8 game with the New York Yankees has been changed to 1:20 p.m. The game had previously been scheduled for 7:10 p.m.
The move avoids a home game conflict with the Seattle Sounders, who will kick off against their rival Vancouver Whitecaps at their originally scheduled time of 7:30 p.m.
The Mariners-Yankees game will still be televised by Root Sports and carried live on 710-AM.
The Mariners made their first cuts of the spring on Sunday evening. Right-handed reliever Chance Ruffin was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Fellow pitchers – right-handers Jonathan Arias and D.J. Mitchell and lefty Brian Moran – were optioned to minor league camp. … There were no exhibition games for the Mariners Monday, but some players still had to get work in. Pitchers Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez threw simulated games to keep them on their throwing schedules. Unofficially, Beavan pitched 4 innings, giving up one run on four hits with six strikeouts. Ramirez pitched five innings, giving up three runs on 10 hits with seven strikeouts. The Mariners return to Cactus League play today, playing host to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Felix Hernandez will make his second start of the spring. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. There will be no live local radio broadcast of the firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish