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Perez starts Minors game, insists he's on track

Lefty throws four innings in first action since right-elbow injury
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This could be fun to watch.

The Rangers are debating the wisdom of having left-handed pitcher Martin Perez in the rotation at the start of the season, while he is finishing the recovery from a broken bone in his right elbow.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This could be fun to watch.

The Rangers are debating the wisdom of having left-handed pitcher Martin Perez in the rotation at the start of the season, while he is finishing the recovery from a broken bone in his right elbow.

Perez insists there is no debate.

"I don't care what they think, I am going to be ready," Perez said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Well ...

"He doesn't determine that," pitching coach Doug Brocail said.

This could end up being quite the fight.

"I am not going to fight," Perez said. "I am going to show them -- these people -- that I am ready. They know that I like to compete and I am a hard worker. They aren't going to have to say anything, because I am going to be ready. I know and I feel that. They said I was going to miss a month. I am not going to miss anything."

Perez showed on Monday that the left arm is fine, throwing 69 pitches in a Minor League game against the Dodgers' Class A team. Perez allowed six runs, three earned, over four innings, on seven hits and a walk while striking out three.

"I was happy," Brocail said. "I don't care how many runs he gave up. He got his fastball up to 94 [miles per hour], 93-94 in the first inning. I thought it would drop to 88, but it was primarily 90-91. His breaking ball had good depth."

Tweet from @Sullivan_Ranger: Martin Perez pitching in a Minor League game pic.twitter.com/ZawmaqUha8

Maintaining fastball velocity through an outing is one barometer for endurance. The fact that the velocity dropped shows that that part is not all there yet.

The Rangers have no doubt about the health of Perez's left arm. But the right-arm injury curtailed his overall offseason conditioning program, so Perez's endurance and durability have to be considered. The Rangers also need to make sure any issues with the right elbow don't throw his entire delivery out of whack.

"Again, it goes back to the medical staff signing off on the process of healing and where he is at," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He's done very well at that. Physically, being able to maintain the velocity on all his pitches throughout the course of the game, how he moves around physically, how does he react to balls hit back to him, make sure we are all in a good spot and feel good about him being able to defend himself."

Perez suffered a broken radial bone in his right elbow on Dec. 11 when he fell off a fence at his ranch in Venezuela. He underwent surgery on Dec. 18, with the original prognosis being he would be back sometime between late April and early May.

Perez wants to beat that timetable. The Rangers have to think about the broader picture.

"If he is ready to open the season -- one of five guys, one of six guys -- I would be happy," Brocail said. "I would also be happy to hold off and get him a few more outings down here. He realizes he has to be able to give us everything he's got and not just piece it together. He has got to be ready to give us five-plus innings."

The Rangers also remember Perez went 8-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his final 11 starts last season. The Rangers want to make sure they get that pitcher back for an extended period of time.

"The first part is being consistent throughout the year with what we saw in the second half and how he pitched," Banister said. "I don't think he has tapped the ceiling on where he is going to be. This is a guy, he can dominate hitters on both the left and right side, manage a game well, he can go deep in a game, close in on that 200-inning pinnacle. There is still some ceiling for him."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Martin Perez