ARLINGTON, Texas -- The only thing manager Ron Washington asked of Martin Perez before the 21-year-old left-hander made his first big league start Saturday was to pitch as deep as he could and keep the club in the game.
As debuts go, it was a solid one. He wasn't efficient, but he was gritty. He showed he could pitch out of jams and he left with a 6-2 lead after 5 1/3 innings. And, most important, he and the Rangers got the win.
"I told him he did an outstanding job," Washington said. "He had great mound presence. He used all his pitches as I told him he had to. He threw enough changeups to get them off his fastball and spotted it well down in the zone. He competed. He did an outstanding job for the first time out there. He didn't look nervous at all. He looked like he belonged."
Perez exited the game to a wave of sound from a crowd of 46,711 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Perez took his hat off halfway between the mound and the dugout and then acknowledged the fans.
"It was very emotional," Perez said through an interpreter. "It was a full house and my family was watching in Venezuela. I'm happy with my outing because when I went out to the mound in the first, I felt a little tension, but I was able to control myself."
Perez needed 103 pitches to get through his outing, as the A's took a lot of pitches and Perez fell behind too often. But he battled back in counts and still only had one walk. His five strikeouts -- most of them on excellent off-speed pitches, especially the changeup -- matched his season-high from any minor league start.
He also showed an ability to bear down and get key outs when he needed them. He gave up a two-out double to Josh Reddick in the first but calmly got cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes to ground out. After a home run with one out by Chris Carter, Perez got the next two batters out in the third.
The one time he didn't get the big out was the fourth, when Brandon Inge hit a two-out single to score Carter for the A's second run.
Perez said pitching coach Mike Maddux told him that he can get outs quicker and to focus on letting his defense get him off the field and into the dugout without throwing a bunch of pitches. It was something Perez was already thinking about for his next start. Washington acknowledged that Perez's performance will make the club consider giving him another start, though that decisions hasn't been made yet.
Catcher Yorvit Torrealba noted that Perez was able to spot his two-seam fastball on both sides of the plate, making his off-speed stuff more effective.
"The changeup was good," Torrealba said. "He pounded the strike zone, which was awesome. He gave us five-plus innings and kept us in the game."
Perez worked around hits and kept his composure, not allowing the A's to string together a bunch of hits and put a big inning together.
"He wasn't panicking or nervous at all," Torrealba said. "He had a lot of confidence and was able to challenge hitters and that impressed me."