SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While we are still in the early stages of the battle to figure out who will become the Texas Rangers fifth starter, heralded prospect Martin Perez jumped out to an early advantage following his impressive start Monday.
The 21-year old pitched two perfect innings in his spring debut, striking out two and throwing 16 of his 27 pitches for strikes in the Rangers 9-1 loss against the Colorado Rockies. All six batters he retired will be regulars for Colorado in 2013.
"It is a big opportunity for me because they want to see how I throw on the mound and my body language," Perez said. "I'm attacking the zone and my breaking pitch was pretty good today."
Perez already impressed Rangers manager Ron Washington with his focus and command with multiple pitches early this spring and nothing changed following Monday's performance. The flawless outing was a welcome sight for Perez, who was hit hard during 12 appearances in 2012, including six starts, when opponents batted .297 against him.
"The little experience he had last year, he's taking that and he's trying to run with it," Washington said. "He's been in camp looking like a mature kid. You can see when he is out there he is all business."
Another positive result of Perez' performance was his ability to retire all four right-handers he faced. Last season, the left-hander struggled against righties who hit .324 against him in 108 at-bats. He also struggled against right-handers with Triple-A Round Rock where righties hit nine of the 10 home runs he allowed.
"Now, I throw more in against the righties," Perez said. "If you throw in, they don't have a chance and I have a good changeup, so I work it in."
Two other reasons why Perez may have the early advantage for the No. 5 slot is Monday's rough outing for Justin Grimm and the shoulder problems that have kept Kyle McClellan from taking the mound in a spring game. Both players are also battling for the last spot in the rotation. Grimm did himself no favors after allowing three earned runs on four hits in two innings in his spring debut.
Perez has long been considered a player destined for a successful Major League career, having been ranked among the Top 5 Rangers prospects by Baseball America for the last five years, including No. 3 this season. The Venezuela native was also ranked as having the best changeup in the organization.