Saturday night’s start for Rangers pitcher Martin Perez is big for more than one reason.
Obviously, Perez wants to bounce back from last weekend’s loss to the Angels in Arlington where he gave up four runs in just over five innings of work. It was the lefty’s third straight loss. Perez has pitched less than six innings in four of his six starts this season.
So yes, Perez wants to right the ship and get on track. However, the start in Seattle means more for the team overall.
The bullpen worked overtime Friday night in the 3-1 win in 13 innings over the Mariners. Former closer Sam Dyson pitched a scoreless inning in the eighth, allowing one hit and one walk. Tony Barnette followed afterwards, throwing three innings in what may have been his best performance of the season. Barnette allowed two hits and struck out two while keeping the Mariners at bay. Matt Bush would get the win and Alex Claudio earned the save, each throwing an inning after Barnette.
This translates to fewer choices to pick from should Perez run into problems early on. Barnette is a long-relief guy who’s likely not available. Claudio also made an emergency start earlier in the week for an injured Cole Hamels, so he’s expected to be crossed off the list. Bush has been playing the role of closer of late but chances are he’s not an option either after throwing over 40 pitches the last two nights. Jose Leclerc is dealing with a bone bruise on his throwing hand so he’s up in the air.
Who does that leave?
Dyson is available as he continues to work past the struggles that saw him lose the closer role before making a trip to the disabled list with a hand injury last month. Keone Kela and Jeremy Jeffress both threw 30 pitches in Thursday’s win over the Houston Astros but should be good to go. Dario Alvarez is the only lefty option out of the pen for the night.
The series in Seattle is an important one as the Rangers continue to fight to get out of the hole they dug themselves into early in the season. Texas did climb out of last place in the A.L. West but are 13-17 and seven games back of the Astros, who sit in the top spot in the division.
So a good outing by Perez not only hits the reset button for him but also helps give the Rangers bullpen a much-needed break. It’s a long season and there’s more work to be done if the Rangers want a shot at winning their third-straight division title. Having a burnt out bullpen before June rolls around won't help the chances of a three-peat.
It may all depend on how Perez handles his assignment on a Saturday night in May.