PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Last year was not the kind of season Rangers pitching prospect Martin Perez envisioned. He was 5-8 with a 5.96 ERA in 99 2/3 innings, spending the whole season at Double-A Frisco. Perez was inconsistent, didn't have the same solid command he showed at the lower levels of the minors and dealt with nagging lower back pain.
But he got healthy toward the end of the 2010 season, went to winter ball in Venezuela and pitched better. That helped his confidence and he vowed before the 2011 season started that he'd have better control and become a better all-around pitcher.
He has. Perez is 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) for Frisco this season. He has pitched 88 1/3 innings already and has 83 strikeouts and 36 walks. Opponents are batting .245 against him. Perez has pitched well enough that he was selected for today's Futures Game.
"He's night and day from last year," said Frisco manager Steve Buechele, who is a coach on the World Team for the Futures Game. "He's grown up a lot. I think what he's done the best this year that's made him successful this year is that he's controlled innings better than he did last year. In innings last year where a team would have scored three or four runs, he holds them to zero or one. That's by far the biggest adjustment he's made."
Perez said that comes from throwing strikes earlier in the count and the game, letting him relax and pitch.
"If do it in the first inning, you can do it through the sixth and it gets easier," Perez said.
Perez is pitching well enough that he could get a chance to move up Triple-A before the season is over. Perez, though, isn't worried about any of that. His mission is to stay consistent and keep developing his off-speed and breaking pitches -- sinker, curve, changeup.