BALTIMORE -- After spending more than two months recovering from soreness in his surgically repaired non-throwing elbow, lefty Martin Perez returns to the Rangers rotation Saturday aiming to prove himself worthy of the contract option the club holds on him after the season.
"I want to stay here for my career," Perez said Friday before the Rangers opened a three-game series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "Let's see what's going to happen next year."
The 27-year-old Venezuelan has posted a career 4.60 ERA over 124 appearances (118 starts), all for a Texas club that plays in one of baseball's least pitcher-friendly parks.
He's shown flashes of developing into a front-of-the-rotation starter, especially in 2016 when he carried a sub-4 ERA into the All-Star break and finished with a career-high 198 2/3 innings pitched.
Turning that into consistency remains the next step, says Rangers manager Jeff Banister, who saw Perez return from offseason surgery on his right elbow only to struggle across five April starts, aggravate the joint and land back on the disabled list. Texas holds a $7.5 million team option on Perez for 2019 and a $750,000 buyout. In 2020, it's a $9 million team option and a $250,000 buyout.
"As a player, you play at a certain level, and there's that next level that you need to get to," Banister said. "And it's time for him to kind of progress to that next level."
Perez says he's in a much better place to do that now. Even though injuries to a pitcher's non-throwing arm are unusual, he said he could feel it impacting his last start, when he allowed four runs over four innings in a 7-2 loss in Toronto on April 29.
"My release point was everywhere," he recalled. "My front arm was bad, and I [couldn't] even use my leg because I feel it. But right now it feels great."
Despite his looming contract status, Perez says he doesn't feel pressure to reinvent himself over the final two-and-a-half months of the season.
"They know what I can do, and they know what kind of pitcher that I am, what kind of person, too," Perez said. "I don't need to show to these guys more than I can do. I'll do what I can do, and I'll control what I can control."
DeShields cleared to play
Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields was cleared by Major League Baseball's concussion protocol shortly before Friday's game, but was not in the starting lineup.
DeShields was removed in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park after he crashed to the turf trying to make a play on Eduardo Nunez's single. He said he had a headache at the time, but that it dissipated by the time the team plane took off for Baltimore.
"I know what it feels like to be concussed," DeShields said, insisting it didn't happen on that play. "I think during the game, if I'd had a little bit of time, I could've stayed in the game. But you'd rather be safe than sorry."
Banister said DeShields did baseball activities Thursday and took tests required as part of the protocol, but that he would've been given the day off Friday even if cleared earlier.