Martin Perez stakes claim to Feldman's spot

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If Saturday night was an audition for the No. 5 spot in the Texas Rangers' starting rotation for the rest of the season, it's time to give the job to Martin Perez.

Scott Feldman has had his chances. But after lasting just 2 2/3 innings and putting the Rangers in a 6-0 hole, he exited the game early and left the Rangers with decisions to make. Asked about Feldman's role after the game, manager Ron Washington said he hadn't had a chance to talk things over with his coaching staff. But he'll do that soon.

"I can't worry about that," said Feldman about his spot in the rotation. "I'm only concerned with what I control."

The No. 5 spot is a big one down the stretch. If the Rangers keep the rotation in order and just move everyone back on the off day (which is what they normally do), the next time that slot pitches is against Seattle next week and then twice against the Oakland A's. With the Rangers now just two games up on the A's with 17 to play, every start matters. And with two of those starts coming against the team chasing Texas, the Rangers can't afford to have a guy out there who has lost five straight decisions and hasn't won since Aug. 4 against Kansas City.

Feldman expressed disappointment about his outing, especially since he got ahead of hitters but didn't put them away.

"When I got two strikes, too many pitches caught the plate," Feldman said.

He gave up two hits on 0-2 counts to Michael Saunders, including a two-run triple in the third. He allowed a solo homer to Dustin Ackley and he walked two batters. Feldman allowed seven hits in all and couldn't get the final out of the third inning.

Perez has proven in his last two lenghty outings that his stuff has improved. He gave up two runs in five innings of work against the Tampa Bay Rays last Sunday and then threw 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball Saturday to allow the Rangers to tie the score, coming back from a 6-0 deficit. The Mariners never got a hit off Perez. But Texas wasn't able to pull the game out at the end.

"I can be ready to start if they need me," Perez said. "I want to do whatever I can to help this team."

With the race close and time running out, Perez should get a chance to start. He seems to be pitching with confidence and, as Michael Young said, is "learning on the job in the middle of a pennant race."

"He was great," Washington said. "He kept the ball down in the zone, had a good changeup and was aggressive."

Will his next outing be as a starter in Seattle late next week?