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Sunday, March 3, 2013
Tough day for 5th-spot contenders

By Ron Matejko

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Two pitchers who are in contention for the fifth spot in the Texas Rangers' rotation took to the mound on Sunday and each had an outing to forget, albeit for much different reasons.

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Starting right-hander Justin Grimm was knocked around in his second consecutive start and may be showing he needs to learn how to keep his pitches down in the zone before securing a spot in a major league rotation. The 24-year-old has struggled throughout his first major league camp, including Sunday when he allowed six earned runs on six hits in 2.1 innings. He did strike out four, but he hung a few too many pitches. Grimm was scheduled to pitch three innings but didn't get out of the second.

"When you get the ball up to these big boys, you get hit hard," manager Ron Washington said.

Sunday's rough outing by Grimm was preceded by Monday's debut, which saw him allow three runs in two innings against Colorado. The stage was set for a challenging spring on Feb. 19 when he was tagged for five earned runs in an intrasquad game.

Grimm has a pedigree for success, performing well during his first two pro seasons. In 275.1 minor league innings, Grimm has 230 strikeouts and a 3.11 ERA. He was impressive enough to make the jump from Double-A to the majors last season, just two years since being selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. However, once he was with the big club, he allowed 14 earned runs in 14 innings.

Another contender for the slot, Martin Perez, entered the game in the fifth inning, and with a more impressive string of performances during the early part of spring training.

Perez has shown a knack for throwing strikes, as well as retiring batters on ground balls. He was on pace to do that again with a scoreless fifth inning, which featured three ground ball outs. The rookie also showed marked improvement against righties, which continued Sunday when he set down the first three right-handers he faced.

After a good beginning, his day turned sour in the sixth. Perez began the inning by walking the first two batters to put runners on first and second. Brad Miller then stepped to the plate and hit a line drive that struck Perez on the forearm just above the wrist of his throwing arm. Perez was immediately removed from the game and a short time later sent to an area hospital for x-rays.

The Rangers later announced the x-rays revealed a fracture of the ulna bone in his left forearm, and that Perez is not expected to resume a throwing program for approximately four weeks while the fracture heals.

"I didn't see where it hit him. He was on the ground and I just ran out to see him," Washington said. "He got hit pretty hard."

The injury occurred at an especially bad time for Perez, who has impressed during camp. The 21-year-old has shown maturity both on and off the field. During his spring debut on Monday, Perez threw two perfect innings and struck out two. That came on the heels of a shutout inning during an intrasquad game on Feb. 19.