Perez hurls weather-shortened perfect game

With the help of a tornado warning and a lightning storm in North Little Rock on Tuesday night, left-hander Martin Perez pitched the fifth perfect game in Texas League history. The 20-year-old retired all 15 batters he faced before the game was called in the top of the sixth inning.

Frisco RoughRiders left-hander Martin Perez tossed the fifth––and shortest––perfect game in Texas League history on Tuesday night.

Facing the Arkansas Travelers––Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim––the 20-year-old top prospect retired all 15 batters he faced, throwing only 67 pitches (including 42 strikes). He struck out three while inducing seven groundouts, four flyouts, and a lineout.

The RoughRiders and Travelers played the game while North Little Rock was under a tornado warning. And with two outs in the top of the sixth inning, the skies opened up, leading to a lightning and rain delay. The game was called after a 35-minute stoppage.

Although the game lasted little more than five innings, it was just enough to be official. And just enough to give Perez credit for the perfect game.

"When I go to the mound, I think of throwing nine innings with no hits and no runs," Perez said after the game. "A perfect game––it's good for me. It's the first in my life."

Tuesday's outing may have been the first perfect game of Perez's life, but it wasn't the first time he's played part in a no-hitter. In his season-opening start with Single-A Hickory in 2009, he worked the first four frames of a seven-inning no-hitter before righties Tyler Tufts and Fabio Castillo finished the job.

"Last year, I threw four innings and no base hits," he said. "In 2009, it was the same––my first game of the season. But this is the first perfect game of my life. I'm happy. I'm very happy."

Perez was able to build upon his solid outing at Springfield on April 14, when he worked five scoreless innings and matched a career high with nine strikeouts. After that contest, Perez said he worked mostly with a fastball-curveball mix––using his normally above-average changeup only sparingly.

According to Perez, the same was true of his perfect outing on Tuesday.

"I was working more with my fastball and curveball," said the Venezuela native. "I threw just a couple of changeups. I threw my fastball and my curveball for strikes, and I had the feel. I threw good."

Entering the 2011 season, Perez was named the seemingly unanimous top prospect in the Texas Rangers' organization largely due to his outstanding stuff. The 6-foot-0 southpaw has a powerful fastball that sits at 92-95 mph and reaches up to 97 mph. Both his curveball and changeup flash plus at times.

But Perez posted a 5.96 earned-run average in 99.2 innings with Double-A Frisco last season. While the stuff remained excellent, he often struggled with command and threw an average of 18 pitches per inning, leading to a number of early-inning exits.

Perez began showing positive signs of development in spring training last month, flashing improved fastball command and more consistent secondary stuff. And so far, he has carried that success into the regular season.

Now that the prospect appears to be harnessing his three potential plus offerings, he's gaining confidence with each outing.

"Every day I work with my balance and throwing the ball in front of my body," he said. "I've got the feel of the ball, so I can throw every pitch for a strike. I've got good command of the fastball, the changeup, and the curveball. I can throw whatever pitch in whatever situation. I've got the feeling and I can throw really, really good now."

Perez's perfect game is the second in the nine-year history of the Frisco franchise. The first was a nine-inning performance at Corpus Christi in 2005, with A.J. Murray, Steve Karsay, and Scott Feldman combining on the feat. It was the club's third overall no-hitter. Lefty Matt Harrison tossed a seven-inning no-no against San Antonio in 2008.

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