Perez Sets His Sights On Rangers' Rotation





ARLINGTON—Martin Perez can talk and talk when given the chance, but he didn't mince words during the Rangers' annual winter pitching camp at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"This is a big year for me," the lefthander said.

Perez is fully aware of what is ahead for him this season. A good spring camp will likely result in him winning the fifth and final spot in Texas' rotation, at least until veteran Colby Lewis (flexor-tendon surgery) is ready to return in May or June.

Any struggles, though, could have him headed back to the minor leagues.

"I don't want to be in Triple-A or Double-A anymore," Perez said. "I want to stay here."

The Rangers' top pitching prospect finished 2012 on the big league roster and was their fifth starter down the stretch. He suffered two losses during the Rangers' end-of-season tailspin after going 7-6, 4.25 in 127 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound southpaw learned that he can't elevate his pitches and has to have better command than he did in September. Perez, 22 this season, has spent the offseason in Venezuela tightening up his mechanics and working on his slider and sinker to regain the confidence of the Rangers' coaching staff.

"I just want to work my hardest," said Perez, who went 1-4, 5.45 over his first 38 big league innings. "They told me this is my opportunity, and I need to take advantage of it."

Righthander Justin Grimm, lefthander Robbie Ross and veteran righty Kyle McClellan are among the others competing for the final rotation spot. Pitching coach Mike Maddux said there's no frontrunner, but the Rangers want Perez reach his potential.

He showed them glimpses of it last year.

"When Martin first came up, he really impressed us," Maddux said. "He kept everything down. The more he threw, the hitters did a better job of elevating him and took that low pitch. As time wore on, his inexperience showed up. But there's no problem with that because everybody goes through it."

Ranger Roundup

• Shortstop Jurickson Profar and third baseman Mike Olt likely will open the season at Triple-A Round Rock. Ian Kinsler will stay at second base, limiting Profar's chances to make the roster. Mitch Moreland is expected to play first base and Lance Berkman will be at DH, spots Olt could have filled.

• The Rangers didn't stand in the way of Profar playing in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands, nor did they restrict outfielder Engel Beltre (Spain) or second baseman Nick Urbanus (Netherlands). Profar is from Curacao, which is a Dutch colony. Beltre is from the Dominican Republic but has Spanish ancestry.