Martin Perez is an interesting piece of the puzzle.
On the surface, he represents the uneasiness that is affixed to this Red Sox' starting rotation. Now slotted in as the No. 3 starter, Perez is a guy who is coming off a season that landed with a thump in the form of a 5.12 ERA. And it wasn't like he stormed into free agency, either, totaling an 8.20 ERA over his final six starters with the 2019 Twins.
Yet here he is, carrying a one-year, $6.25 million deal (with a team option for the same price in 2021). And also along for the ride are the expectations.
So why is there any level of comfort from the Red Sox' point of view when it comes to Perez's existence at the top of the rotation? One look at those first eight starts last season will answer that question.
After starting the 2019 season in the bullpen the lefty slid into Minnesota's starting rotation and thrived, going 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA. It was enough to pique the interest of a few American League East teams, including the Red Sox.
“First half was really good for me and I know the second half was up and down, up and down, but that’s part of the game," Perez said on a Zoom call with the media Tuesday. "I just want to take all the positive things and put it on this year, put everything together again and help the team to win. I have a good feeling, I feel great, I’m happy to be here and be part of this organization. When you feel good and happy, you can do whatever you want. I trust my stuff, I believe my stuff and this organization believes in me and I have the feeling that this is going to be a good year for me."
If the Red Sox are going to have a chance in this sprint of a season they are going to have to get that good Perez, particularly with the uncertainty of staff ace Eduardo Rodriguez.
Listening to Perez, he certainly believes he is up the challenge, coming workouts in Dallas with former Rangers teammates Rougned Odor, Yu Darvish and Robinson Chirinos.
"I think I’m ready," Perez said. "We don’t have too much time to build your arm in the way that you want it. We have a lot of time off and they told us you have to be at a point where you can go and compete with the hitters in the game. I think I threw three innings two days ago and I feel great. I don’t need to throw too much, I know what I need to do and I think I’m ready to compete right now."
He added, "I have the same focus from the first day. We’re going to need Eduardo, and like I said, I have the same focus, I have the mentality that I had before. We just have to do the job as a team and we have to stay together. He’s going to come back and like I said, if we stay together, we’re going to do special things in this short season and we have a really good chance to do something special this year."
Right now, this is the pitcher who could be starting July 25, the second game of the season against the Orioles.
For better or worse, it won't take long to figure out what the Red Sox have got in the 29-year-old.
"We’re not going to have much time to say, 'OK we lost today but we can win tomorrow.' The more games we win, the more chances we’ll have to go to the playoffs," he said. "It’s different than 162 than 60, but I think we all have the same mentality and our mentality is win the most games that we can."