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03/25/08 7:22 PM ET

Perez ready for Opening Day start

Veteran righty allows three runs in his final spring tune-up

JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Odalis Perez pitched his last Spring Training game on Tuesday afternoon and threw six solid innings in a 3-0 loss to the Cardinals.

Perez gave up all three runs, but should have been charged with only one.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, with a runner on first, Ryan Ludwick hit a fly ball to left fielder Rob Mackowiak, but Mackowiak had a tough time tracking the ball because of the sun. The ball dropped in for a double to put runners on second and third, and they scored on an Albert Pujols single.

Mackowiak's misadventure didn't dampen Perez's day.

"It was a good outing," Perez said. "The results might not be there, but I felt great. I threw the ball great. I used all of my pitches. I'm ready to go."

Perez's next start will have historical value. He will become the first Major League hurler to throw a regular-season pitch at Nationals Park on Sunday night. This will be the first Opening Day start of his nine-year career.

Perez is not only excited about the start, but he is proud of the fact that he has his confidence back. The confidence was gone by the time he played his fourth season with the Dodgers. Perez felt the team gave him the quick hook too often after he gave up a couple of runs. According to Perez, the Royals had the same attitude toward him as well.

"My confidence went down a little bit," Perez said. "After I was there for four years and I got the ball every five days, I pitched three or four innings and I get in trouble, they took the ball away from me and they bring somebody else. Last year, I had the same thing happen."

Under manager Manny Acta, Perez is expected to go deep in games this year.

"My confidence is good. I'm taking it into every game," Perez said. "I feel healthy. I just feel good. I'm taking it with an attitude. I want to be out there and win. That means I want the ball. I want to be out there on Opening Day. What Manny has put in my hands is a lot of responsibility because of the new stadium. I know they did good last year, but this year is a different team and I know we can do better."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.