FRISCO, Texas -- LHP Martin Perez, who enters the season as the top-rated prospect in the Rangers' system according to ESPN, says a stint in Venezuela for the winter and progress during spring training has him confident and ready for 2011. That includes learning a 2-seam fastball, fine-tuning his mechanics and strengthening his back.
"One of the biggest issues last year was my back," Perez said, at Dr Pepper Ballpark for media day on Monday. "I really worked on getting that stronger."
Perez said the back, which he felt just go out on him one night last season, was the main cause of his drop in velocity for parts of 2010, where he went 4-8 with a 6.02 ERA for Double-A Frisco. It caused him to alter his mechanics some and he never got going again.
"I couldn't throw the same," Perez said. "It was 86 [mph] sometimes. Now I'm throwing 95 to 96 again."
Perez said he spent time over the winter learning a two-seam fastball and was confident enough to throw it during minor league games this spring.
"It's about 93 and was something I wanted to do," Perez said. "I showed it to the Rangers officials this spring and they told me to keep throwing it."
Perez, who also throws a 4-seam fastball, a curve and a changeup, said the mental side of the game has improved for him as well.
One thing I learned in Venezuela was not to go out and think about throwing seven innings or eight," Perez said. "I only worry about that one inning and then do it again."
Frisco manager Steve Buechele is expecting big things from the lefty.
"He threw better in spring training than I think he threw all of last year," Buechele said. "You can see the adjustments that he made and the improvement. I thoroughly expect him to keep improving. He’s a young kid with huge talent. It’s up to him and us to develop those talents and from what I’ve seen from the end of last season to now is an incredible improvement."
Perez is slated to start Friday's game in Frisco against the Springfield Cardinals. That's the club's second game of the season.