Left-hander Martin Perez will make the first start of his career against the team he spent his first seven major league seasons with when the Minnesota Twins open a three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Friday night in Minneapolis.
Perez (7-3, 4.15 ERA) signed as an undrafted free agent for $580,000 in 2007 with Texas. He compiled a 43-49 record with the Rangers, finishing sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after compiling a 10-6 record and 3.62 ERA in 2013. He won a career-best 13 games in 2017.
However, after Perez sputtered to a 2-7 record and a 6.22 ERA in 2018, Texas didn’t exercise its $7.5 million club option for 2019. Minnesota then signed the free agent to a one-year contract for $3.5 million on Jan. 30 with a $7.5 million club option for 2020 with a $500,000 buyout.
Perez, 28, looked a like bargain for the Twins for much of the first half of the season when he bolted out to a 7-1 record. However, he has gone six starts without a win since a 16-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on May 23.
He comes in off an impressive no-decision in his last start, when he allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings of an eventual 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay that went 18 innings on June 27.
“I’m going to continue to pitch how I’ve been doing,” Perez told twincities.com regarding facing his former Texas teammates. “I just want to stay focused the whole game. I know they’re going to try and play around with me, like laughing and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t have time for that. So I’m just going to do my best to win the game.
“I was a good teammate when I was there. I was a good leader down there. They still call me and they still miss me and I miss my guys, too, but this is business and now I’m here. I represent the Twins.”
Minnesota enters the final weekend before the All-Star break with a six-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central but comes in off its first losing road trip of the season after dropping two of three to both the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A’s. Still, it marks the first time since 2002 that the Twins occupied first place on the Fourth of July.
“It was definitely challenging in some ways, this road trip,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Twins dropped a 7-2 decision to the A’s on Thursday afternoon. “We will regroup. We’ll head home. Obviously, (we) have three more games left before the break. We’ll give it what we have, and then take a little break, but focus on these next three games first.”
Texas will start right-hander Adrian Sampson (6-5, 4.16 ERA) in Friday night’s opener. Sampson will be making his first career appearance against Minnesota. His most recent outing was a 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Saturday, when he allowed three runs on five hits in six innings.
The Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak on Thursday night with a 9-3 victory over the Angels. Rougned Odor homered twice, including one drive that traveled 471 feet, and tied his career high with five RBIs.
“It’s a long season,” Odor said of ending the losing streak. “You have to keep playing hard, keep battling. It’s a long season. You have to keep playing together, and that’s how we’re going to keep winning games.”
–Field Level Media
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