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New York Mets show Perez the door

Perez had been with the Mets since 2006 and signed a three-year contract before the 2009 season but has been beset by knee problems.

Oliver Perez has been released by the New York Mets but is still owed US$12 million by the team. Nick Laham / AFP
Oliver Perez has been released by the New York Mets but is still owed US$12 million by the team. Nick Laham / AFP

The New York Mets have released the struggling pitcher Oliver Perez despite owing him US$12 million (Dh44m) in contract money.

Perez had been with the Mets since 2006 and signed a three-year, $36m contract before the 2009 season.

Beset by knee problems that shortened his play in 2009 and 2010, Perez pitched poorly in this year's spring training. He also gave up back-to-back home runs to minor league players in a weekend game against the Washington Nationals.

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"The velocity wasn't there, the command wasn't there," Sandy Alderson, the Mets general manager, told media at the team's spring training camp in Florida. "We really didn't have to go too far beyond that to make a decision. We just got to the point where there was no reason to prolong it."

Perez, 29, will continue to be paid by the Mets this season but is free to sign with another team and hoped to do so.

"I think I've got more career," the left-hander told reporters.

His release came three days after the Mets dropped Luis Castillo, their second baseman. Castillo, who was owed $6m, has since signed a minor-league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

A three-time All-Star, Castillo will report to camp as a non-roster player and compete for playing time while the five-time All-Star Chase Utley recovers from a right knee injury.

The signing was announced yesterday by Ruben Amaro Jr, the Phillies general manager.

Castillo is a career .290 hitter in 15 seasons with the Mets, Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins. He hit .235 with the Mets last year, as the team stumbled to a 79-83 record, and was limited to 86 games because of a right heel injury.

He is in the final season of a four-year, $25m contract. The Mets are responsible for the $6m remaining on the deal.

Meanwhile the San Diego Padres bought themselves some pitching insurance at the weekend, signing the reliever Pat Neshek on waivers from Minnesota for $625,000.

Neshek throws with an unusual sidearm delivery and, away from the park, is a keen collector of memorabilia. He would come in handy for the Padres if Ernesto Frieri's sore shoulder keeps him out of the bullpen.

The regular season starts with six games on March 31.