FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Friday should have been an upbeat day for the New York Yankees. They opened the exhibition season under new Manager Buck Showalter with 13 hits against the defending National League champion Atlanta Braves. But an 11-6 victory was obscured by more serious news.
Pascual Perez won't pitch for the Yankees this year. He probably won't pitch for them again. His career might be over.
Perez, 34, has been suspended for one year without pay for violating the commissioner's drug policy and the terms of a 1989 agreement between then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth and Perez.
While with the Montreal Expos, Perez avoided a suspension in 1989 by entering a drug rehabilitation center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and agreeing to a one-year suspension if he tested positive again. The commissioner's office did not specify what drug Perez tested positive for, but sources said it was cocaine.
Perez was not at his Coral Springs residence and had his financial adviser, Tony Chiricosta, collect his gear at Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. Chiricosta said Perez was disappointed and confused.
"He did not give a blanket denial," Chiricosta said. "He questioned why it took so long. He was tested Feb. 26 and wasn't told the result until March 5. He wondered where the specimen was all that time."
Yankee General Manager Gene Michael said he was informed by Tom Reich, Perez's agent, Thursday morning of the possibility of a problem. Commissioner Fay Vincent was in Sarasota and not available for comment.
The Yankees are not responsible for Perez's salary of $1.9 million for 1992, the final season of his three-year, $5.7-million contract, and they probably won't have interest in re-signing him if he is reinstated March 6, 1993, two months shy of his 36th birthday.
Perez, a right-hander, had shoulder surgery his first season with the Yankees and pitched only 87 innings the past two seasons, during which he was 3-6 with a 2.89 earned-run average.
"I liked him as a competitor, and I liked him as a pitcher," Showalter said. "Pascual was very competitive. He didn't like to be embarrassed . . . athletically."
Showalter anticipated problems when he was unable to reach Perez at his home in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, to talk about an off-season throwing program. When Perez arrived in camp five days after pitchers and catchers had begun working out, he was 163 pounds, 12 below normal. "We did not go into spring training counting on his arm," Showalter said.
But, as Showalter said Friday: "Your first thought is sadness. One of the first things I did was to talk to Melido (Perez), who has been a model pitcher in this camp. You know, that's his brother."
"We're very different people," Melido Perez said. "We don't live together, we don't hang together, but I feel sorry for him. I love him."