Oliver Pérez to retire after Mexican League season

February 22nd, 2022

Oliver Pérez knew his days in the Majors were numbered last year, as he roamed the grounds at Progressive Field on Opening Day with an enormous grin on his face. At the time, he was 39 years old, but his excitement to play the game he loved mimicked that of a rookie during his big league debut.

Prior to suiting up for his 16th Opening Day roster, Pérez met with local media and allowed himself to briefly speak about what he hoped his 19 years in the big leagues would mean when he officially decided to walk away from the game.

“I want -- when I retire -- [people] to see Oliver Pérez like an example,” Pérez said at the time.

He certainly accomplished that.

Last week, Pérez announced in a video posted by his Mexican League team -- Toros De Tijuana -- that he will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2022 Mexican League season.

"We just wanted to share some news with everyone,” Pérez said in Spanish, in the video posted on Twitter. “We came to a decision, together with my parents, my brothers, my wife and children, that this will be my last season playing baseball, for both the Tijuana Toros and the Culiacán Tomateros. Both clubs have been informed and are genuinely happy for me; thanks so much for your support. And let's go make this a phenomenal year."

The 40-year-old lefty was able to accomplish something that few hurlers have done. He began his career as a starter and found some success, but his numbers quickly began going in the opposite direction as he battled through injuries from 2008-10. After spending the previous five years with the Mets, he was released and admitted that he was strongly considering retirement.

That’s when his family stepped in to remind him that he was just 29 years old and he had plenty of time to work his way back. He got back to the big leagues in 2012 with Seattle and began a 10-season stretch of working strictly out of the bullpen. In seven of those seasons, Pérez posted an ERA below 4.00. He pitched for the Mariners for two seasons before spending time in Arizona, Houston and Washington. It wasn’t until 2018 that he found consistent work with Cleveland until the end of his big league career in 2021.

Even as he aged, Pérez became a force in Cleveland’s bullpen, pitching to a 1.39 ERA in 51 appearances in ’18 and owning a 3.98 ERA in a whopping 67 appearances in 2019. And despite having to navigate yet another hurdle in his career, the lefty specialist seamlessly navigated the new three-batter minimum rule in a shortened 2020 season, pitching to a 2.00 ERA in 21 games. His first appearance in 2020 marked his 18th big league season, setting a record for the most by a Mexican-born player -- a milestone that brought the hurler to tears.

Little did he know at the time that he’d have one more big league Opening Day to get through, beginning his 19th season in the Majors in 2021. He did not allow a run in his five appearances, but Cleveland was having a difficult time finding innings for him to work with the new wave of young talent they had to evaluate out of the 'pen -- a transition Pérez knew was occurring. He fully embraced his veteran role and enjoyed passing on any bits of wisdom to his teammates who were younger than 10 years old when Pérez made his Major League debut.

And because of his jovial approach to the game and his willingness to help any hurler who was eager to listen, it’s clear that his only goal was accomplished: Make sure Oliver Pérez is an example for younger generations.

“That’s my goal,” Pérez said on Opening Day in 2021. “That’s why I have to do everything I can to help my teammates and teach the guys. I can learn from them because in this game, you have to learn something every single day. That’s why you can grow up and be a nice person and a really nice player. That’s very important to me.”