3/1/2014 11:50 A.M. ET
Perez tries to sustain last year's success
By AJ Cassavell / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- In 2013, left-hander Martin Perez made it clear exactly what he's capable of. He became one of the Rangers' biggest weapons down the stretch, and he got the nod in the club's one-game playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
Now, for the hard part: Sustaining that success.
Perez is still only 22 (he'll turn 23 on April 4), and he's far from the polished top-of-the-rotation product that the Rangers hope he'll become. The biggest key to achieving that status -- according to both Perez and the Rangers -- is just how hard he works.
"I know a little bit more of the league and the hitters, and I got more hungry," Perez said. "We want to go to the World Series. Thirty-two starts, that's my goal."
In his first outing of the spring, Perez tossed two innings, allowing one run on a pair of walks and a hit in a 2-2 tie against Oakland on Saturday.
Perhaps more important than the numbers, however, was Perez's implementation of a cutter that he spent time honing during the offseason. He threw it just twice on Saturday, saying he'll need to build more confidence before it becomes a legitimate piece of his arsenal.
"I just need to continue to throw it, trust it 100 percent," Perez said. "You need to practice when you're trying to do something new, so that's what I'm going to do now: Throw it and trust it more, and I think it will be ready for the season."
Perez made 20 starts in in 2013, going 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He was slotted into the rotation last June 22 in St. Louis and didn't miss a start over the remainder of the season.
"What impressed me more than anything else was how he was able to work out of situations in real time," manager Ron Washington said.
Perez had to work out of trouble right away on Saturday when he found himself in a second-and-third, none-out jam with the heart of the A's order due up. He fanned Josh Reddick, before allowing a Yoenis Cespedes sac fly on the first of his two cutters. (The other was a ball to Nate Freiman an inning later.)
Washington said the toughest thing for a second-year pitcher to understand is not to take his initial success for granted.
"It's not only for a young pitcher the second year -- it's for everybody," Washington said. "You have to work just as hard as you did to accomplish what you accomplished the first time around, and the work is even harder the second time around because adjustments are being made. You have to adjust also."
Thus far Perez isn't showing any signs of letting up in his work ethic. He wasn't exactly sharp on Saturday -- who is in their first spring start? But he didn't leave any pitches over the middle of the plate either.
"I did a pretty good job," Perez said. "It was a long time that I didn't face hitters in a game, and the most important thing is that I threw the ball down."
Arm soreness to sideline Andrus for a few days
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus will be sidelined for a few days with flexor tendinitis in his right arm, assistant general manager Thad Levine said Saturday.
The soreness likely arose from Andrus' arm being overworked early in camp. Wary of Andrus trying to overcompensate, the Rangers decided to hold him out of game action for a brief stint.
Andrus believes the soreness comes as a result of his deciding to skip out on winter ball in the offseason for the first time, meaning it will take a bit more exertion this spring to get his arm back into proper playing shape.
"My elbow and my arm are good to go," Andrus said. "That's not a pain I'll be concerned with now. know the process this year is going to be a little longer. This is the first time for me that I didn't throw a ball in winter ball, so it's going to get longer than in previous years."
Still, Andrus took part in the Rangers' hitting workout and was able to go through a light throwing regimen.
"It's just kind of localized soreness in his forearm," Levine said before Saturday's workout. "We're going to try and knock it out early in camp rather than continue to play him every day and not give him a chance to recover."
Levine did not say how long Andrus will be out. But with the calendar having only just turned to March, Texas will likely be cautious with its 25-year-old shortstop.
Andrus said he began feeling the soreness "a couple days ago," and after an errant throw in Friday's game against Kansas City, the Rangers decided not to take any chances.
"I think he would've liked to have played through it, and I think we took matters out of his own hands and said, 'Listen, let's just try and knock this out,'" Levine said.
In 156 games last season, Andrus posted a .271 average with a .659 OPS and 42 stolen bases.
Choice rakes double against former team
PHOENIX -- During Saturday's exhibition contest against Oakland, Michael Choice gave the A's a glimpse of what they're missing.
After being dealt to Texas for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom in December, Choice laced a double to left-center field to lead off the second inning in his first at-bat against his former club.
"It was fun," the 24-year-old Choice said. "It was exciting to look over there and see some of the guys that were familiar. Just have fun with it. Don't let it become a tense environment that causes stress."
He's only played in three games thus far, but it appears Choice is having plenty of fun in a Rangers uniform, with three hits in six at-bats.
"I feel like I've been seeing the ball well -- it goes to the work that I've been doing in the cages, working with all our hitting guys in the morning and really honing in," Choice said.
Mikolas, Tolleson resume throwing programs
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers right-handers Miles Mikolas and Shawn Tolleson resumed their throwing programs Saturday after being evaluated and cleared by team physician Shane Seroyer.
Mikolas (elbow) and Tolleson (shoulder), who had each missed the past few days because of the injuries, showed no structural damage, assistant general manager Thad Levine said.
With an impressive spring, either Mikolas or Tolleson could earn one of the Rangers' final bullpen spots.
In other injury news, center fielder Leonys Martin remains day to day with back soreness, and left-hander Rafael Perez is slated to throw live batting practice Saturday after missing a few days with a right hamstring strain.
Perez, who last pitched in the Majors for the Indians in 2012, signed a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite in January.
• The breakthrough season of lefty reliever Neal Cotts last year won't alter the Rangers decision on whether to move fellow southpaw Robbie Ross into the starting rotation. Ross is currently a candidate for the No. 5 starter role.
"We're not letting Robbie start because of the emergence of Cotts," Washington said. "We need starting pitching, and Robbie has started before in the Minor Leagues and done well. We're trying to use as much of our inventory as we possibly can."
• Left-hander Matt Harrison, who dealt with back issues early in camp, hasn't had any problems physically since he resumed his throwing program on Thursday.
• This spring, Washington has made a point to address his club's situational hitting -- specifically against the reigning NL West champion A's.
"I guess when you don't get it done, you have to say [the A's] got it done," Washington said. "That's the way it works. We had many opportunities, and we just didn't execute."
• Battling for a starting role this season, Michael Kirkman tossed two scoreless frames and struck out a pair in relief of Perez. He also allowed two hits, but managed to work out of a second-and-third jam in the bottom of the fourth.
"He could give us some depth," Washington said. "If he certainly gets to the point where he gets consistent, he has a good arm, and he's got good stuff. There's no doubt about that, and today was just an example of what he's capable of doing."