Perez missed three weeks of Spring Training with what was diagnosed as shoulder tendinitis, and last June went on the disabled list with rotator cuff irritation. He has lost his last three starts, but has pitched at least six innings in each of his last four starts. On the season, he is 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA.
Perez's next start is scheduled for Friday, but with a day off Thursday, manager Jim Tracy said he has some flexibility. Among the candidates to fill in are Scott Erickson, Wilson Alvarez and rookie D.J. Houlton.
Erickson started Sunday and was to be skipped because of the upcoming day off. Alvarez's durability for a start is uncertain because his spring was delayed by shoulder tendinitis. Houlton's ERA is 10.22, but he has been primarily a starter in his Minor League career.
Gagne's OK: Even teammates had to wonder what was up with closer Eric Gagne on Saturday night, when the radar gun caught his fastball consistently around 90-92 mph, roughly five ticks slower than his norm.
"I'm not worried," Gagne said the day after his first appearance. "I'm completely pain free. I feel great today. It's just going to take some time. It'll come. It got better as the inning went on."
True enough. Gagne allowed home runs to the first two batters, Chipper and Andruw Jones, but struck out the last three. His fastball reached 93 mph in a 25-pitch outing.
Last weekend in Las Vegas, Gagne was clocked at 94-95 mph. He said -- without the benefit of a normal Spring Training because of a knee sprain, then an elbow sprain -- that he still has arm strength to regain.
"He still is in a progessing mode," said Tracy. "I loved what he did last night and he feels very good today."
A good Saenz: Olmedo Saenz has started 13 games in the field and the season isn't one-quarter over. He started 14 games in the field for all of 2004.
"That's the most I've played since 2001," said Saenz, who played in 106 games that year for Oakland and had 305 at-bats. "At the beginning of the year, it was an adjustment, but now I'm used to it."
Last year, Saenz was one of the best pinch-hitters in the league. This year, the club's uncertainty at third base and manager Jim Tracy's decision to protect Hee-Seop Choi against left-handed pitching has created considerably more opportunities for Saenz, and he has continued to deliver quality at-bats.
"I was thinking going into the season that this year might be different, because (Hee-Seop) Choi is a young player and he might not play against every left-hander," said Saenz. "But with Jose Valentin being a switch-hitter and a veteran, I didn't think there would be these chances at third base. But it's a crazy game. Anything can happen."
Saenz entered play Sunday hitting .339 with 13 RBIs in 56 at-bats.
Rehab updates: Jayson Werth returned to the Las Vegas lineup and went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and run scored in the opener of a doubleheader Sunday in Nashville.
Antonio Perez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Perez went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and an error at third base in the nightcap, while Werth did not play.
Dessens improving: Elmer Dessens, on the disabled list with a shoulder spur, continues to throw off flat ground and said he might be ready for a bullpen session Tuesday or Wednesday.
Explaining the lineup: Tracy said Sunday's lineup against Tim Hudson, which had Oscar Robles batting second and Choi seventh, was designed to take advantage of Choi's recent power surge. In his last 16 games, he is batting .432 with five homers and 13 RBIs.
Going into the game, left-handed hitters were batting .304 against Hudson, while right-handers were batting .228.
Coming up: Brad Penny starts for the Dodgers on Monday night against his former team, the Florida Marlins, in the opener of a three-game series. Penny and Choi came to the Dodgers last July for Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion.