Pérez's right elbow has no structural damage

Testing reveals mild inflammation; righty will begin throwing on Saturday

March 24th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins right-hander will open the season on the injured list, but testing revealed just mild right elbow inflammation and no structural damage. He will begin playing catch on Saturday, per the recommendation of Dr. Keith Meister.

"[I had] a lot of questions for the doctor [on Tuesday], but he told me to hit the field right away," Pérez said on Friday via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "It's inflammation. [I've] got to continue working on that to stay healthy and go out there and do as much as I can."

Added manager Skip Schumaker: "He's most likely throwing tomorrow, so that's obviously a good sign. You're crossing your fingers hoping for the best, and so far so good."

Pérez experienced right elbow soreness on March 14 and alerted the training team after initially exiting his March 13 Grapefruit League outing at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium due to discomfort from a broken nail on his right middle finger.

After striking out the leadoff batter on three pitches on March 13, Pérez walked back-to-back hitters on 10 pitches -- the first of which set off the finger discomfort. After a foul ball by Keibert Ruiz, Pérez was visited on the mound by Schumaker, catcher Christian Bethancourt, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and head athletic trainer Lee Meyer as Miami's infielders gathered around. Before being taken out, Pérez’s four-seam velocity had dipped from above 98 mph to 95.1 mph on his final offering.

When Miami returned from the March 14 off-day, the original injury update included a no-throw status of three to four days for Pérez. On Friday, Pérez said the elbow soreness had nothing to do with mechanics and that he is feeling "muy bien."

"These last couple of days, feeling better," Pérez said. "Beginning of the injury, it's been very, very bad. It was very uncomfortable, with the pain and everything."

Outside the first elbow issue of his career, the 20-year-old Pérez had been dealing with nail trouble throughout the spring. During live batting practice in February, it was the changeup that caused him trouble. His second spring start on March 2 was cut short at 36 pitches because throwing his slider was affecting his broken nail. He said it was “not a big deal” at the time. On March 8, Pérez wore a fake nail and relied on his four-seamer and curveball to avoid aggravating the issue.

By taking this time off, Pérez's nail has grown back since he has been limited to training room work. If his catch session goes well on Saturday, Pérez would follow a normal throwing progression.

"Then kind of a build-up from there that most pitchers go through after a period of downtime," president of baseball operations Peter Bendix said. "Catch leads into potentially multiple days of catch, leads into a bullpen session, live BP, games. It's all based on kind of how he feels."

Pérez, whose rookie season in 2023 was cut short by left SI joint inflammation, joins left-hander Braxton Garrett (general left shoulder soreness) and right-hander Edward Cabrera (right shoulder impingement) as starting pitchers who will not be in Miami's Opening Day rotation. Garrett is scheduled to throw a second live batting practice on Saturday, while Cabrera has been playing catch. Ace Sandy Alcantara, Pérez’s mentor, is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Left-handers A.J. Puk, Ryan Weathers and Trevor Rogers will follow Opening Day starter Jesús Luzardo in that order. Schumaker didn't reveal who will be the club's fifth starter.

"As we know, Sandy's a guy who is overcoming a surgery, so he told me to leave everything in the hands of God and to stay positive," Pérez said. "Once we heard about the news, it was only inflammation, he congratulated me, was very happy that I didn't have to go through that tough moment."