Spring training preview: No. 4 starter

Note: Spring training will arrive before you know it. To get you ready, we'll take a look at every position between now and February, when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz.

Today's position: No. 4 starter

Martin Perez was still a prospect at this time last year. He was a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation coming into spring and it appeared to be his, and then he was hit by a line drive in March and suffered a broken ulna bone in his left forearm. Perez rehabbed and started the season in the minors before earning a promotion in May.

The 22-year-old started one game after that call-up but didn't stick in the rotation until June. But after holding the Cardinals to two runs in seven innings in a win on June 22, Perez was a mainstay in the rotation.

He didn't pitch like a youngster with little experience. He improved with each outing and ended up 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts. It was Perez that was on the mound opposite David Price in Game 163, and he gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings in the loss. But it was one more learning experience for the pitcher, who got a long-term contract this offseason and a place in the rotation heading into 2014.

OUTLOOK: Can Perez start an entire season and be effective? He can if he builds off 2013. Perez learned a lot in his one season. He got the chance to work with pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and showed more consistent command than he had at times in the minors. Perez pitched smartly and got a chance to start learning hitters.

If he can take all of that information and apply that toward taking another step, 2014 could be a very big year for Perez. We'll see if his arm can handle the additional workload and how he navigates through an entire year in the big leagues.