Martin Perez was going to face some pressure to validate his 2013 campaign anyway, but thanks to a boxer named Wrigley, the pressure just went up.
Wrigley is Derek Holland's dog and his sprint up the stairs and a clipping of Holland's legs resulted in knee surgery. The timetable for Holland's return is midseason. But that's all dependent on how well he recovers.
There's plenty of talk about who will take his place and that's another question we'll get to next week. But part of that is how Perez performs.
For years, Perez was considered one of the club's top pitching prospects. He worked his way up, only to run into command issues and lack of consistency. But when the call came for him to earn a rotation spot for good in June, he was ready. Perez was 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts. He pitched 124 innings and said he learned a lot about what it takes to be successful.
Perez was a nice surprise for the Rangers in 2013. They need him to be a consistent performer for the entire 2014 season. Last year earned him a permanent spot in the rotation and a long-term contract.
Perez showed he could pitch with more consistent command, dropping his walk total to 37 in 124 1/3 innings. Last year, he walked 15 in just 38 big league innings. He pitched with confidence and kept his team in games.
Now he has to do it in 2013, especially with Holland out for half the year. In a sense, Perez moves up to the No. 3 spot now behind Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison. And with Harrison having to come back from a season in which surgeries limited him to just two starts, Perez is critical to the rotation's success, coming in without any health issues.
Perez won't come to spring training trying to earn a job. He'll come knowing it's all about preparing for a big 2014.