Pérez: 'I'll be ready to compete and win'

July 15th, 2020

BOSTON -- Martín Pérez’s elevated responsibility for the Red Sox -- he now projects as the No. 2 starter -- makes it vital for him to be sharp when the season starts in 10 days.

Though the lefty gave up five runs across five innings in Wednesday’s intrasquad game at Fenway Park, Pérez was upbeat for two reasons.

The first was that he stretched out to five innings, and he still has one more intrasquad start before making his first expected start of the regular season on July 25 against the Orioles.

And the second was even more important. Pérez feels that he fixed a key mechanical issue that had plagued him in Summer Camp.

“Especially with my upper body,” Pérez said. “I’m trying to stay strong, keep my left arm close. I’m trying not to go too long. I felt that today. I’m getting to the point I want to be, and I’ll be ready in [10 days] to compete and win games.”

The fix wasn’t quite complete in the first inning, when he was tagged for three runs. From there, however, he locked in for the rest of the day, aside from the two-run homer that barely cleared the Green Monster off the bat of José Peraza.

“I was trying to feel something I was working on in my bullpen today,” said Pérez. “I think I found it. Trying to attack the hitters, keep the ball down, throw my fastball in, work on my changeup and breaking pitch a little bit.”

Pérez also won’t mind when he starts facing teams other than his own.

“Our hitters are ready, too,” Pérez said. “They’re pretty good. It was a good team.”

It’s wild to think that when the Red Sox acquired Pérez in December, he projected as the No. 5 starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi.

To recap: Price was traded, Sale underwent Tommy John surgery and Rodriguez is recovering from COVID-19.

As far as Pérez is concerned, it doesn’t do him any good to contemplate how much more pressure is on him now.

“I think it doesn’t matter what game you’ve got,” said Pérez. “It’s the same responsibility. You’ve got to go out there and win games. That’s all that matters.

“Like I’ve said before to you guys, we have to stay together. We have to work together as a group. If we stay together and work together as a group, we’re going to do special things this year in this short season. That’s the same responsibility that I had when this started. Like I said, I’m getting to the point where I want to be. I’m available to get people out and give a chance to my team to win the game.”

Pérez proved to be a fast starter last year. In a 60-game season, Pérez will make roughly 12 starts. Through his first 12 starts last year, he went 6-3 with a 3.67 ERA.

The Red Sox would gladly take those numbers, particularly with Rodriguez expected to strengthen the rotation when he returns.

“I think I’m going to be ready,” Pérez said. “I feel good. I feel healthy. I feel strong. I told our pitching coach that I felt strong after five innings. I think that says a lot. I’m in good shape.”