Texas Rangers

Martin Perez feels on track for Opening Day rotation after spring debut

Martin Perez has convinced himself that he’ll be ready for the Opening Day roster.

Now he’s determined to make the Texas Rangers’ brass feel the same way.

“I am going to show them – these people – that I am ready,” Perez said. “They know that I like to compete and I am a hard worker. They aren’t going to have to say anything because I am going to be ready at that time. I know and I feel that. They said I was going to miss a month. I am not going to miss anything.”

Unfortunately for Perez ...

"He doesn't determine that," pitching coach Doug Brocail said.

Either way, Perez took his first significant step on Monday, making his spring debut in a minor-league game. He threw four innings (although he didn’t finish two fully) and allowed six runs, three earned, on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Perez threw 69 pitches, including 48 strikes, showing his left arm is good. He threw as hard as 94 mph and sat in the 90-91 mph range.

Arguably more important than that was Perez fielding a couple balls. He ran down a bunt without an issue, although he failed to apply the tag on time. And he handled a comebacker just fine.

“That’s what everybody’s worried about,” Brocail said. “I did tell him, ‘Listen, don’t go out and be an acrobat. I don’t want you diving all over the place, let the kids do that.’ My biggest fear is he goes down to get something and jars that arm. I don’t know what the repercussions would be, but I didn’t want it.”

That was avoided for Perez, who has been monitored closely after undergoing surgery on his right (non-throwing) elbow in the off-season.

The thought process within camp has been that Perez could be held out of the first turn of the rotation. The Rangers are more concerned that he’s available for the entire season, not just the first start.

And the Rangers appear to have options to take it slow with Perez as Mike Minor and Bartolo Colon have pitched well so far.

Perez, though, made it clear that he has no interest in being skipped when the season starts later this month.

“I know I am going to be good for the season,” Perez said. “Of course I’ll be ready. My arm is good.”

As stated, that determination doesn't rest solely with Perez. But he did have an interesting outing, something that should be expected facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Class A game.

The first batter reached on an error when the right fielder botched a fly ball. Another time, Perez had what should have been a double-play grounder, but the throw to first missed.

Perez’s first inning ended after he surrendered a home run to Dodgers prospect Starling Heredia. He also didn’t make it out of the third.

But Perez maintained his velocity throughout and seemed pleased with his day. So did Brocail.

“I was happy. I know the runs that were given up, I don’t care how many runs he gave up,” Brocail said. “I thought I’d see the velo maintain like it did in the other games. He got up to 94 mph, he lived right around 91 mph. Breaking ball had good depth, all but one of them. I’m pretty pleased there.”

The next step for Perez is a bullpen session, either on the off day Wednesday or Thursday, and then an appearance in the Cactus League.

The plan would be for Perez to get “his feet wet” in the Cactus League initially, not ramp up his pitch count more.

“Have him come in, get a few pitches under his belt, get off and probably do a touch-and-feel and some work on the back fields,” Brocail said.

Whether all of it leads to Perez being ready for the Opening Day roster or not, there’s no question the Rangers remain high on him being a significant contributor this season.

Perez is coming off consecutive seasons in which he started at least 32 games and pitched 185 innings. His ERA wasn’t too impressive last season (4.82), but he’s still just 26-years-old with room to grow.

The Rangers are encouraged by how Perez finished last season, going 8-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his final 11 starts.

“The first part is being consistent throughout the year with what we saw in the second half and how he pitched," manager Jeff Banister said. "I don’t think he has tapped the ceiling on where he is going to be.

“This is a guy, he can dominant hitters on both the left and right side, manage a game well, he can go deep in a game, close in on that 200 (innings pitched) pinnacle, there is still some ceiling for him.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram