StaTuesday: Twins starter Perez cruising with new pitch

The resurgent Minnesota Twins probably weren’t expecting this when they signed left-hander Martin Perez to a one-year deal earlier this year.

Then 27, Perez had a career 4.63 ERA in seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, who moved him to the bullpen last August.

Injuries to his non-throwing elbow shortened that season to just 22 appearances, and probably contributed to his career-worst 6.22 ERA.

However, a little advice from Johan Santana back in spring training, a few tips from teammate Jake Odorizzi and a new pitch have turned Perez into a key contributor for the first-place Twins.

Perez, who added a cut fastball over the offseason, has made it a crucial part of his repertoire through his first eight appearances.

With that cutter in his arsenal, the eight-year veteran has emerged as a key cog in the Twins’ rotation since the group expanded to five pitchers early in the season.

Perez started the year in the bullpen, allowing seven earned runs in 8 1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts before debuting as a starter on April 15.

He’s been thriving ever since.

Perez has a 1.64 ERA since joining the Twins’ rotation — fifth amongst American League starters over that span — and is one of just five pitchers (Perez, Trevor Bauer, Ryne Stanek, Luis Castillo and Kevin Gausman) with five starts since April 15.


Pitcher GS W-L IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB Opp. AVG
Jake Odorizzi 4 4-0 24.1 1.11 1.07 8.51 2.22 3.83 .222
Martin Perez 5 4-0 33.0 1.64 0.97 7.36 1.91 3.86 .214
Kyle Gibson 4 2-1 23.1 3.47 1.03 8.10 1.93 4.20 .221
Jose Berrios 3 3-0 19.0 3.79 1.32 8.53 1.42 6.00 .289
Michael Pineda 4 0-3 19.0 8.53 1.95 7.11 3.32 2.14 .361

That cutter has accounted for 31.2% of Perez’s pitches thus far, and 13 of his 39 strikeouts.

Perez was electric in an 8-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday, racking up a season-high nine strikeouts — five via that cutter — in seven scoreless innings.

He threw the cutter 34 times in 102 pitches against the Blue Jays, who managed to hit it just once, in the bottom of the fifth.

The Houston Astros had a little more success against Perez and his new favorite pitch, racking up three hits against it, but didn’t do any damage.

Perez went eight scoreless innings against the Astros last Wednesday, striking out seven and allowing just four hits while using his cutter 43 times on 100 pitches.

He’s up to 15 consecutive scoreless innings, his longest such streak since a string of three straight scoreless outings back in 2014, and leads the Twins’ rotation with a 0.97 WHIP and a .214 opponent batting average since his first start.

The Twins made a few shrewd signings last winter, notably adding some major muscle to the lineup, but the Perez signing is looking like an early frontrunner for the shrewdest.