It's still early in the spring, and there's still a lot of Cactus League play left to hammer things out, but there is a pretty strong internal competition for the No. 5 rotation spot for the Texas Rangers, and so far Martin Perez has made a strong case for it.
In the club's first intrasquad scrimmage last week, the 21-year-old lefty worked one inning — three up, three down — on nine pitches, all strikes. You can't do much better than that.
In Monday's game, Perez's Cactus League debut, he was equally efficient, but this time against another team in the Colorado Rockies, and big league regulars.
Perez worked two innings — six up, six down — throwing 27 pitches with 16 going for strikes.
"It is a big opportunity for me because they want to see how I throw on the mound and my body language," Perez told ESPN Dallas. "I'm attacking the zone and my breaking pitch was pretty good today."
Perez has long been touted as being one of the Rangers' top prospects in a very rich farm system and was rated as having the system's best changeup. He's been destined for greatness since he was 16 years old, but so far has seen a huge mixed bag of varied results — both in the bigs and at the minor-league level.
In fact, at one point last season when the Rangers' rotation was decimated by injury, they needed a starter and called up Double-A pitcher Justin Grimm instead of Perez, who was in Triple-A at the time, because they felt Grimm was pitching better. He's battling Grimm and lefty reliever Robbie Ross for the fifth spot in the Rangers' rotation, assuming they don't go sign someone like Kyle Lohse.
Now, Rangers manager Ron Washington is confident his young lefty is ready to break through and contribute to the big-league club from Day 1.
"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."