Owners of the most wins in the Major Leagues, the best current run (8 of 10, and 11 of 14), the fattest run differential, and baseball’s biggest division lead, Texas is getting this done with a 12-man pitching staff that currently includes four rookies (Yu Darvish, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Justin Grimm) and another who missed rookie status by a mere seven days of service (Michael Kirkman). And there’s evidently another one on the way.
A little before midnight last night, Martin Perez’s agent and then Perez himself and then at least one national writer and then multiple local reporters tweeted that the 21-year-old lefthander – who has seemingly been around forever but who is younger than seven of the eight players Texas took in rounds 3 through 10 of this month’s draft – is on his way to Texas.
There’s been no official confirmation of any pending move, and thus no suggestion at all whether the idea would be to plug Perez into Kirkman’s bullpen spot after the latter threw 82 very effective pitches last night (sure to make him unavailable for the rest of the series against Detroit and probably the start of the Oakland series), or to replace Grimm with Perez in the rotation while Derek Holland moves methodically toward reinstatement (though in that case you’d expect Yoshinori Tateyama to be recalled until that rotation slot came up again Saturday night, to give the bullpen another arm), or – I hate to even imagine it – to step in for Darvish tonight for some unknown reason. (Perez would be pitching on regular rest.)
I’d bet on Perez being asked to step into Kirkman’s role, giving Texas a second stretched-out arm for the bullpen along with Scott Feldman (who could conceivably be kept out of action the rest of the week and plugged back into the Grimm spot in the rotation himself).
It’s been a very disappointing AAA season for Perez, a pitcher that the industry press has gilded over the past few years far more than Danks, Volquez, or Diamond ever were. His last six weeks of work reveal a progression ranging from awful to sublime: In eight Round Rock starts, he has logged (in order) 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.2, 6.0, 7.0, 7.0, and 9.0 innings.
The first of the two seven-inning efforts included 11 hits allowed and zero strikeouts. The only other times in Perez’s 98 pro starts in which he fanned zero were a 1.1-inning Spokane start at age 17 in 2008 and a 0.1-inning Frisco start in 2010.
But in that start Perez threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, and 11 pitches per inning, remarkable numbers in a season in which he sits at 61 percent and 15 per inning overall. He followed up with the second seven-inning start, limiting Oklahoma City to one hit (but five walks) while fanning five and keeping the RedHawks off the board.
And then, on Thursday, he fired the first nine-inning complete game of his professional life, which dates back to 2008. You can circle the three hits and applaud the two walks and feel really good about 72 percent strikes and two runs allowed. But no piece of data from that start pops like the 90 pitches thrown, a exceptional, super-crisp, and easily calculated 10 pitches per inning, which is evidence of a different pitcher from the Perez who had put together only one half-season the past four years befitting (at least from a results-oriented view) a prospect with his sort of consensus stature.
Those last two starts came after the announcement that Grimm would jump over Perez from Frisco to Arlington. Whether that served as added motivation for the young lefthander is only for him to say, but for now he’s just saying that he’s going to be a big leaguer today.
Forget whether Perez is the next Johan Santana (height, build, heritage, handedness, Bugs Bunny change), or whether he’ll succeed (here) at a level that DVD never did. The exciting thing is that, at least in the organization’s estimation, Perez may be Perez again, a pitcher passed over a week and a half ago when Grimm got the call but one who, since, has taken measurable steps forward to earn a trip to Arlington and to join a pitching staff that, in spite of doing battle without Holland and without Neftali Feliz and without Alexi Ogando and without Koji Uehara and with lots of very young pitchers, is once again being appreciated as the unquestionable key to baseball’s best team.