Martin Perez has put in a lot of work to turn the corner this season. His outing Thursday went a long way to suggest he just might finally be there.
The Rangers' No. 2 prospect threw the first complete game of his career Thursday, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out four over nine innings in Triple-A Round Rock's 6-2 win over Iowa.
Along with a one-hit seven-inning shutout effort June 15, it was the first time this season the Venezuelan won back-to-back starts. It was also the first time this season Perez posted back-to-back outings of at least six innings and three or fewer runs.
"I'm pretty happy, I just threw the ball where I wanted [tonight]," he said. "I always want to throw more innings than the last time and that's what I did."
Things haven't gone as smoothly for MLB.com's No. 23 prospect as they did Thursday. He's allowed four or more runs in seven of his 15 starts and walked four or more in five of those outings.
His ERA has risen as high as 5.80, where it sat after a May 25 start against Nashville. In the month since then, though, Perez (5-5) has managed to lower it over a run, to the 4.59 mark it stood at after this latest outing.
The 21-year-old said the work he's put in between starts has been critical to helping him get his footing as the season's worn on.
"Every time after I throw poorly I do my workouts, work more in the bullpen, work on my pitches," he said. "I think my thing is if I throw more before the game, in the bullpen, that's when I do good when I go to the mound."
The 2007 international signee may finally be starting to get a better feel for the Pacific Coast League. In his first exposure to the circuit last year, he posted a 6.43 ERA in 49 innings with Round Rock over 10 starts.
The improvement since then has been steady, if sometimes slow.
"I think I just need to do the same things [between starts]," said Perez. "I don't want to change anything. Do the same thing before the game with my bullpen [session]. If you're doing good tonight, you need to do the same thing the next day."
It wasn't the first time Perez found some difficulties upon earning a promotion. He came to Triple-A after throwing well for Double-A Frisco last year, where he went 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA, striking out 83 in 88 1/3 innings and walking 36.
It was his third go-round with the RoughRiders, though, after he registered a 5.96 ERA in 114 2/3 innings there in 2010 and went 1-3 with a 5.57 ERA in five starts when he first appeared with them the year before.
Perez, for his part, thinks he's just about got the hang of things in Triple-A.
"I think this is my time. I just want to throw like I did tonight and work and prepare for my next start," he said. "It feels pretty good, you know. All things were working for me tonight."
Yangervis Solarte went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and Brad Nelson added a two-run homer in support of Perez.