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Texas notes: Perez displays maturity04/26/2011 10:00 AM ET
By Todd Traub / Special to MLB.com
Assorted players with the Frisco RoughRiders and Arkansas Travelers as well as members of the umpiring crew clustered at the double doors of the clubhouse hallway at North Little Rock's Dickey-Stephens Park.
They were watching the severe thunderstorm -- complete with brilliant lightning spider-webbing across the sky -- that had minutes earlier forced the game to be halted after five innings.
Frisco left-hander Martin Perez drifted over to take a look while the players laughed and oohed as if watching fireworks, but, with his phone glued to his ear, Perez soon sauntered away.
Perez didn't need to watch what Mother Nature had to offer -- he had already put on a show.
In his strongest outing to date, the 20-year-old lefty threw five perfect innings and, with the game eventually called at regulation length, pocketed his first victory of the year, 1-0. The top prospect in the Texas Rangers system struck out three, threw seven ground-ball outs and induced five flyouts.
"I think in my mind, 'Just throw the ball for a strike,' and the other guys make the outs," said Perez, who threw 67 pitches to nail down the fifth perfect game in Texas League history. "It's easy when the pitcher throws a strike, a strike, a strike, it's easy for the other guys [on your team] to stay with you."
Not that anyone would have predicted a perfect game, even a rain-shortened one, but given the way he pitched in his previous start, Perez seemed destined for big things after struggling in his first full Double-A campaign last year.
Perez scattered four hits over five innings and struck out nine on April 14 at Springfield, setting the stage for his mini-perfecto. Over his first three starts, Perez had a 1.38 ERA with 15 strikeouts and four walks while allowing just nine hits.
"He wasn't throwing with the power he was the other night, but he still had good velocity," said Frisco manager Steve Buechele. "Good curveball for strikes, good changeups, too, good fastballs in on right-handed hitters."
Much has been made of Perez's youth and the fact he signed as a free agent when he was 16. But, Buechele noted, Perez now has plenty of professional innings, and youth shouldn't be something to overcome or use as an excuse.
"I think a kid stays young for so long, and then there comes a point where they're not young anymore and they start taking a little more control," Buechele said. "They kind of shed that 'Oh, he's young. It's OK to throw that way.'"
"I'm working every day," Perez said. "I work on my balance and my shoulders and all my body because I want to play in the big leagues this year."
Perez had a 2.45 ERA over his first six starts of 2010, then struggled while battling back trouble and finished the regular season 5-8 with a 5.96 ERA. But Perez looked strong in a postseason start and in instructional league and now, by his reckoning, perfection should always be in reach, even if it's only five innings' worth.
"When I go to the mound I think, 'Throw nine innings -- no hits and no runs.'" Perez said. "Last year I threw four innings and no base hits and in 2009 the same, my first game of the season, so this game is the first perfect game of my life. I'm happy."
Speaking of perfection: Martin Perez's perfect game was the fifth and shortest in Texas League history. The others came from Galveston's Ed Cole against Tulsa on July 10, 1935; Shreveport's Dave Wilhelmi against Arkansas on May 4, 1983; Frisco's A.J. Murray, Steve Karsay and Scott Feldman, who combined to beat Corpus Christi on July 28, 2005; and Tulsa's Al Shealy, who pitched a seven-inning perfecto to beat San Antonio on June 23, 1935.
Management program: The Texas League has four new managers this season: Bill Mosiello at Arkansas, Tom Lawless at Corpus Christi, Steve Scarsone at Midland and Tulsa's Duane Espy, who managed former league member Shreveport from 1983-85. In his fifth season, Springfield's Ron "Pop" Warner is the dean of the league, while Northwest Arkansas' Brian Poldberg, the only manager the Naturals have known, is in his fourth season after leading his club to last year's league championship.