PHOENIX -- If spring training had played out according to form, left-hander Martin Perez likely would have broken camp as the Texas Rangers' fifth starter. Instead, the 21-year-old suffered a broken ulna in his left forearm after being hit by a line drive a few weeks into the spring slate, and Opening Day passed while he sat on the disabled list.
Perez finally made his 2013 regular-season debut with the Rangers on Monday, almost two months later than initially thought and with a different purpose. As a call-up from Triple-A Round Rock, Perez filled the one-day role of the 26th man with the goal of eating innings in the first game of a split doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Texas bullpen was taxed from frequent recent work, including a 13-inning affair Sunday at the Seattle Mariners, so the deeper into the game Perez went, the better. The start didn't go as smoothly as planned, but the mission was accomplished as Perez went 5 1/3 innings, allowing Rangers manager Ron Washington the luxury of using only his two freshest relievers to complete the game, a 5-3 loss.
"He got us into the sixth inning. It would have been great if he got through six, but he got into the sixth and kept us in the ballgame," Washington said. "He saved our bullpen by going as deep as he did."
Perez succeeded with the short-term goal and took one for the team. But the young southpaw hoped for a better outing Monday to show he belonged on the squad, and to remind his teammates and staff that his abbreviated but impressive spring performance was a glimpse of what he could bring to the rotation.
Instead, Perez admitted he struggled with location by leaving the ball up in hitter's counts and often fell behind the count. He threw 48 pitches in two innings as Arizona opened a 3-0 lead and seemed destined for a short outing. He settled down in the fourth and fifth innings, throwing only 10 pitches in each frame. But he was removed with one out in the sixth after throwing 95 pitches, with runners on first and third and the Diamondbacks leading 4-0.
Perez allowed four runs, three earned, on nine hits, while walking two and striking out a pair. Ross Wolf ended the inning one batter after coming into the game -- after inducing A.J. Pollock into a double play -- or the line might have been worse.
Considering Perez has been very hittable through his four minor league starts, a more effective major league appearance could have erased some of the bad taste from his early struggles. He didn't pitch badly Monday, but more seasoning will benefit Perez, who has lost his past four major league starts dating back to last season (0-4, 9.64 ERA).
"The problem today was I had to attack better and I gave too much credit to the hitters," Perez said. "I fell behind the count to about half the hitters, and that isn't good.
“But I'm young and I'm still learning. I'll be ready when I get my next opportunity."