Perez wins 2018 debut, hopes to give Rangers ‘what they‘ve been waiting for‘

Any birthday, even one as uneventful as turning 27, can give a person a spark, so maybe birthday boy Martin Perez was feeling some extra juice Wednesday when he declared that his 2018 debut was going to be good.

All the good the left-hander discovered down the stretch last season was still intact. His mind is focused. His emotions are in check. His game plan is simplified, on the advice of .

That broken right elbow, , isn‘t remotely and issue. The left elbow — and forearm, labrum, rotator cuff and all other body parts needed to throw a baseball — felt fine for every pitch during spring training.

It is time, Perez said, to be the pitcher he has been heralded to be for more than a decade now. And, man, these Texas Rangers need that.


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They also needed their 6-3 win Thursday to split the four-game series against the Oakland A‘s. Perez wasn‘t terrific, but he gave the Rangers a chance by allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings at Oakland Coliseum.

“It‘s good,” Perez said. “To pitch for my team and to have a big win today was amazing. I think I didn‘t have my best stuff today, but I found a way to compete and gave the relievers a chance to do their job, too.”

Five relievers tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings, but not two outs were bigger than the ones Jake Diekman recorded in the seventh with the tying run at third base.

“That was probably the game for us,” manager Jeff Banister said.

The Rangers collected 10 hits, including two by third baseman Adrian Beltre. , passing Hall of Famer Rod Carew, and the second tied him for No. 24 all time with former teammate and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson.

Beltre‘s first hit, a double to left field, jump-started a four-run Rangers rally against Daniel Mengden, who two batters later we smacked near the right foot by Rougned Odor line drive.

But the Rangers‘ most important hit was the two-run ninth-inning homer by Shin-Soo Choo that give Keone Kela some breathing room en route to his second save of the season.

“This is as big a hit as we‘ve had so far,” Banister said.

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Adrian Beltre, the Texas Rangers’ star, became the all-time leader in hits by a Latino-born player. He passed Rod Carew with a double and later tied another MLB Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson. Jeff Wilson

Perez allowed 10 hits, but contends that only three were hit hard. He didn‘t walk a batter, struck out only one, but used only 76 pitches. He attacked and made the A‘s put the ball in play, as he said he would.

“I just want to come this year and threw a lot of strikes,” Perez said. “I think I did a great job with that today.”

Perez saved his 2017 season after an early August start at Minnesota. The Twins teed off on him, and the next day he discovered that he was tipping his pitches. Even Colon, the Twins‘ pitcher that night, saw it.

From there, Perez took off. He didn‘t pitch like a Cy Young candidate, but he was consistent and reliably kept the Rangers in many of his remaining starts. That kind of consistency is what the Rangers have wanted from Perez for years.

He will be pleased if pitches like that this season.

“The last two months of last year were unbelievable,” said Perez, who rallied to a career-high 13 wins and a 4.82 ERA. “I need to stay there rather than try to be perfect or do too much. I need to stay at the same level the whole time, control my mind and control my emotions.”

The biggest piece of advise he received from Colon this spring was the same advance Felix Hernandez gave last year during the World Baseball Class. Perez was reminded that he has quality stuff, starting with his two-seam fastball, and that he needs to trust it.

Throw strikes, Colon said, and the stuff will take care of the rest.

He did that Thursday in his 2018 debut and should be caught up to the other Rangers starters soon after an abbreviated spring. But he‘s ready to be the pitcher the Rangers have always envisioned.

“It‘s time for me to give it to the team, what they‘ve been waiting for,” Perez said. “I feel positive. I feel great. I feel strong. I just have to go out there and believe in what I‘ve got and do my job.”