It took almost three weeks, but No. 5 starter Martin Perez will finally make his first start of the season for the Minnesota Twins on Monday night when they open a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays in Minneapolis.
It will be the 129th career start for the 28-year-old left-hander, who signed a one-year free agent contract with the Twins in January following an injury-plagued 2018 season in Texas.
In 22 appearances for the Rangers, including 15 starts, he went 2-7 with a 6.22 ERA. That came a season after he won a career-high 13 games while making 32 starts.
“I think (Monday’s) going to be a big day for me,” Perez told MLB.com. “I’m going to get the win.”
Because of a schedule that featured five days off over the first 15 days of the season, Perez began the year in the bullpen in long relief as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli focused on keeping ace Jose Berrios as close as possible on a normal five-day schedule.
Perez has pitched 8 1/3 innings in three appearances, throwing 82 pitches in one outing and 71 in another to be prepared to later join the rotation.
Perez has allowed seven earned runs and walked nine, while relying mainly on his fastball and cutter, but he told MLB.com he plans to mix in more breaking pitches and changeups as a starter.
“It’s not the same when you come from the bullpen and you face only three innings of the lineup,” Perez said. “You just come in and it’s ‘Boom, boom, boom.’ Trying to attack because they’re going to be ready for everything because they’ve already seen a lot of pitches.”
Baldelli said he didn’t have “any expectations as far as pitches or innings or anything like that” for Perez. However, Perez said he is planning on making his first start a lengthy one.
“I talked to these guys, and I’m going to go long,” Perez said. “I’m not a young guy. I’m a veteran guy, and I need a chance to pitch to show my teammates and to show the other team that I’m ready for this. I’m ready to win. I don’t want a pitch count. I don’t like that. They believe in me, and I’m going to do my job.”
The Twins are coming off consecutive wins over the Detroit Tigers, after their game Friday was postponed by inclement weather.
Toronto is beginning a seven-game road trip that finishes with three games at Oakland. The Blue Jays, who are 1-5 on the road, have the worst record (5-11) in the American League and have lost seven of their last nine games.
Matt Shoemaker (3-0, 0.92 ERA), tied for second in the American League in wins and also second in the league in ERA, will start for Toronto on Monday. He has allowed just nine hits and two earned runs over 19 2/3 innings while striking out 19.
The Blue Jays come in off an 8-4 home loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday. Jays shortstop Freddy Galvis hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season on Sunday, and he also leads the team in average (.351) and RBIs (11).
One question is whether second baseman Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who had a game-winning two-run double in a 3-1 victory over the Rays on Saturday, will make the trip.
Gurriel was yanked at the end of the third inning during Sunday’s loss after making his second error in two games, misfiring badly on a routine 30-foot throw to first on a grounder by Ji-Man Choi.
“It’s all right here,” manager Charlie Montoyo said pointing to his temple. “And it’s tough. I’ve seen it before, and people have worked through it. Hopefully he can work through it.”
That could mean a demotion to the minors for Gurriel.
“There’s that chance, yes,” Montoyo said.
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