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The Texas Rangers leaned on their pitching staff for most of the 2013 season, as the bats were simply not as effective as they had been in years past. The pitching staff, as a whole, was heavily effective, but the depth of the rotation was tested early and often throughout the year.
The Rangers were already dealing with the losses of Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz to start the season when Martin Perez – vying for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation during Spring Training – was shelved after having his throwing forearm broken on a line drive in a game against the Mariners.
Matt Harrison began the season as the team’s No. 1 starter, but he was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back after only two starts. Harrison had hopes of returning later on in the year, but he was shut down for good in August after experiencing numbness in his elbow.
Perez was able to return during the 2013 season, however, and he was extremely effective when he did. The southpaw went 10-6 in 20 starts with a 3.62 ERA for the season. That prompted general manager Jon Daniels to sign him to a four-year contract with three club options this off-season, which keeps him under club control through the 2020 season.
Even before signing the contract, Perez was going to have some added pressure put on his shoulders heading into Spring Training. The No. 5 spot in the rotation is up in the air, as the Rangers will look to Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis (if healthy), Nick Tepesch or even Wilmer Font to secure the job.
Also, Harrison should be ready to go come time for Spring Training, but if, for whatever reason, he is not ready or has a setback, Perez would be depended upon to move up to No. 3. Perez will be highly depended upon to add some stability to the rotation whether Harrison is there or not, and the Rangers certainly hope the 22-year old is able to take that next step in his development.
He has been a highly touted prospect, ranking in Baseball America’s Top 100 list of prospects in each of the last five years. His pitching style awarded him comparisons to Johan Santana, with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and crippling change-up.
If Perez can indeed take that next step, and the rest of the rotation remains healthy, the Rangers may have the pleasure of having one of the best starting rotations in the entire league. There are a lot of ifs, ands and buts involved, but it certainly within the realm of possibility.