Perez makes spring debut vs. White Sox 'A' team

March 31st, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Martín Pérez pitched three efficient innings in his first spring start Wednesday, using the outing to work on a curveball that he has thrown less than nine percent of the time during his 10-year career.

“I feel great with that pitch, and I think it is another weapon that I have with my stuff,” said Pérez, whose arsenal features a cutter, a two-seam fastball and a changeup. “I just need to continue to throw it and get people out.”

Pérez gave up one run on two hits and a walk in three innings of the 7-0 loss to the White Sox in Glendale, inducing seven ground-ball outs that included five flawless chances by Marcus Semien.

Pérez faced the White Sox’s regular lineup and got into some trouble by hitting Josh Harrison with a 1-2 pitch to open the third inning. After breaking off the mound to throw out Adam Engel on a sacrifice bunt, Pérez gave up a two-out RBI double to Luis Robert.

“That kind of lineup, you just have to trust your stuff, throw the pitch where you want it,” Pérez said. “They like to hit homers, so you have to keep the ball down and work more on your two-seam and changeup, and you will get good results.”

Pérez, who rejoined the Rangers in March after spending 2012-18 with the club, will get only one more spring start this spring, but he does not mind the limited time in camp.

“For me, this is the best spring,” Pérez said. “I think six weeks is too much. ... Four weeks is enough.”

Pérez is tentatively listed as No. 2 in the rotation, but his limited time in camp and potential matchups in the first week of the season could cause some early juggling behind Opening Day starter Jon Gray.

“The way they fall in line after that is somewhat strategic,” manager Chris Woodward. “We’re still working though that.”

Holland faces Sox best
Greg Holland, a candidate for a role at the back end of the bullpen, threw 20 pitches in a scoreless fourth inning. He gave up a walk and a single and was helped by a sliding catch by left fielder Joe McCarthy.

“His velo was up a little bit,” Woodward said. “I thought he was making some pretty good pitches out there, but the calls he didn’t get didn’t affect him.”

Holland relished the opportunity to face the White Sox regulars.

“When you are used to pitching later in games, sometimes a Spring Training game when you don’t know the hitters, your adrenaline is not pumping the way you want it to be,” Holland said. “So getting to face a lineup chock-full of their starters, you know you have to execute some pitches or they can really hurt you. I kind of like that added element. If we are going to compete, I want to compete against the best.”

The plan for Garver
While admitting it would “absolutely kill me” to keep Mitch Garver out of the lineup on certain days, Woodward said the tentative plan is for Garver to catch about 90 to 100 games and also spend some time at DH and possibly first base.

Garver’s injury history factors into that. He sustained groin and back injuries with Minnesota in 2021, a season that in his words was “wrecked by injuries.”

“If there is any kind of injury history, you want to protect that,” Woodward said. “He’s definitely one that I look at as being a priority to keep on the field. We just have to be disciplined with him.”

Jonah Heim and Jose Trevino are competing for the No. 2 catching job.

“Both guys have made strides on the catching side,” Woodward said. “Both guys came in knowing [the competition] was going to be pretty fierce the moment we traded for Garver. They embraced that.”

Culberson has a path forward
Non-roster invitee  all but secured a spot on the Opening Day roster when the Rangers optioned infielder Yonny Hernandez to Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday.

“It’s not 100 percent,” Woodward said, “but we just think with Culby’s experience, how he hits left-handed pitching, his versatility, the clubhouse guy, the makeup -- it is a really good fit for us.”

Culberson is the only backup infielder in camp behind the expected starting group that includes third baseman Andy Ibañez, although left-field candidates Nick Solak and Brad Miller also have infield experience.

Culberson hit .346 with four homers and a .932 OPS in 144 plate appearances against left-handers with the Rangers last season while playing mostly third base. He is a career .286 hitter against lefties, with 11 of his 28 homers coming against them.

Worth noting
• The Rangers honored the winners of their 2021 Player Development Awards in a ceremony held in the first-base dugout at Surprise Stadium early Wednesday.

The winners were Cole Winn (Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year); Dustin Harris (Tom Grieve Minor League player of the Year); Keybar Rodriguez and Bubba Thompson (True Ranger Award); Luisangel Acuna (Minor League Defender of the Year); Nick Snyder (Minor League Reliever of the Year); Logan Frandsen (Bobby Jones Development Man of the Year); and Joe Furukawa (Red Jacket Scout of the Year).

• Bullpen candidate Matt Bush pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning on Wednesday.

“I have to stay confident and take it day by day and go out there and keep giving it my best effort and take it from there,” Bush said.