Oliver Perez now in bullpen battle

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Left-hander Oliver Perez is one step closer to being released by the New York Mets.

After Perez allowed three runs on four hits and two walks in three innings Tuesday against the Houston Astros, general manager Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen met to discuss Perez's fate. The trio decided to move Perez from rotation consideration to the lefty-specialist competition in the bullpen.

The decision was officially communicated to Perez by Collins Wednesday afternoon.

"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."

Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said early in the offseason that he would authorize the front office to eat the $12 million owed to Perez in 2011, and team officials indicate they are inclined to take advantage of that willingness before Opening Day.

Perez's velocity showed marginal improvement in Tuesday's outing, when he ranged between 84 mph to 88 mph. But the southpaw's history of wildness and his sagging velocity since a 15-win season in 2007 with the Mets means Perez ultimately is destined to be released. Collins already has declared former Astro Tim Byrdak on firm footing for the role as lefty specialist.

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."

Mets officials wanted to place Perez in the lefty-specialist competition from the beginning of camp, but Perez asked to audition for a starting role, and Collins wanted to show respect to the veteran.

"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."

Incumbent second baseman Luis Castillo also is on the ropes at Mets camp, with the team prepared to eat his $6 million contract as well. Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy, who is learning second base this spring training, could form a combo at that position for the Mets this season.

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.