Perez motivated to have huge 2016 season

Young left-hander ready to live up to promise for Rangers

Perez motivated to have huge 2016 season

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This is a big year for Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. The Rangers have been waiting for this for a long time.

He is fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery. He has made 48 Major League starts and six relief appearances with spurts of undeniable success over the past four seasons. He will turn 26 on April 4 and understands the need to control his emotions on the mound.

He has long been labeled as the Rangers' "top pitching prospect" and he is already into the third season of a four-year contract signed in 2014. It has been almost nine years since he was signed out of Venezuela.

It is time for the long-awaited breakthrough year. It is time for a big year.

"That's the way I'm feeling and what I'm thinking," Perez said. "This is the year, this is the time for me to do what I have to do and be what people expect. This is going to be my year."

For all he has been through, once you cut through the disabled list time, the rehab assignments and his occasional relief assignments, Perez is 14-12 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in his last 34 Major League starts.

As a comparison, Cole Hamels is 13-10 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in his last 34 starts. Derek Holland is 11-8 with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in his last 34 starts going back to June 21, 2013.

Perez is right behind them with the numbers. Now it's all about giving the Rangers 30-32 starts and 180-200 innings as their No. 2 starter.

"If you tell me that he'll make 32 healthy, consistent starts, I would be very happy," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "The results will be good if that's the case."

Remember Perez was 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his first five starts of the 2014 season. Then he started experiencing the elbow problems, allowed 19 runs in his next three starts and then had the surgery. He was 3-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 14 starts after he returned last season, including 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four.

If Perez can extend his spurts of success, he could have a serious breakthrough season for the Rangers.

"If I stay healthy, I can give this team a chance to win the game," Perez said. "I feel good and my arm is strong. I'm going to have a good year. That's my mindset."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.