Martin Perez battles in first career loss

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Martin Perez took the decision in the Texas Rangers' 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in the first of a three-game set Friday, but things could've been much worse.

Perez, who is 1-1 on the year, battled throughout the game as the Rangers defense and offense gave him no help. The left-hander gave up four runs -- two earned -- on six hits with three walks -- one intentional -- and three strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, including 67 for strikes.

"I think I had a good outing," Perez said. "I feel good about my outing. The hits they got were not hard hits. They got my pitch count up with a lot of foul balls, but I never lost control. I always had control of my game on the mound."

That was apparent when he battled through some adversity in the third inning as the Twins struck for three runs -- one earned -- to take the lead.

Minnesota had already pushed across one run and had a runner on second with two outs. Perez got Twins left fielder Josh Willingham to pop one up to the right side that should've ended the inning. Mike Napoli, who made the start at first for the Rangers, had trouble with the wind and missed the ball that landed just inside the foul line. The error scored the second run of the game for Minnesota. Justin Morneau increased the Twins' lead with an RBI single for the third run of the frame.

"That's part of the game," Perez said of the error. "What I was trying to do was keep myself in the game and keep my concentration and do my job. Those things are going to happen. You never know, so you just have to keep doing your job on the mound."

Perez got himself in a jam in the fourth as the Twins loaded the bases with just one out. The rookie buckled down and limited the damage to just a run by getting back-to-back fly outs.

"He showed some heart tonight," manager Ron Washington said. "The pitches piled up after we didn't catch that popup, and I didn't think he'd get through the fifth, and he got six. He's progressing, he's starting to feel comfortable, he's starting to make better pitches."

The 21-year-old has two starts under his belt, and when looking at the numbers, he's done pretty well. In 11 2/3 innings as a starter, Perez has allowed six runs -- four earned -- on 12 hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.

No one knows what is next for Perez. With the All-Star break approaching and guys coming back from the disabled list, Perez could be sent back to Triple-A Round Rock or be trade bait if the Rangers decide to test the market before the trade deadline July 31. No matter what the situation, Perez is ready.

"It's good for me to know that people are watching for me," Perez said. "Those things happen. I'd like to be in Texas and play here, but you never know. When you do your job, everyone is going to be looking for you either way."