Every fifth game is Martin Perez Day for Boston Red Sox fans
Martin Perez arrived last year as a rather unheralded free-agent signing who was expected to shore up the back of the Boston Red Sox rotation. The lefty exceeded those expectations, emerging as a fan-favorite whose enthusiasm provided a sliver of joy during an otherwise dreadful 2020 season.
Boston’s rotation was a mess last year. Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez were sidelined for the entire season and David Price was shipped to Los Angeles. Without room in the budget to bring in viable reinforcements, the Red Sox were left with an underwhelming staff that was among the worst in baseball.
Perez was one of the few bright spots on the Red Sox pitching staff, proving to be the club’s most consistent starter. While a 4.50 ERA screams mediocrity, it actually led the team among qualified starters. His ERA was also spoiled by his final start of the season when the Baltimore Orioles roughed him up for five runs in a meaningless game. Prior to that outing, Perez owned a respectable 3.88 ERA.
As Perez piled up solid performances, fans began jumping on the bandwagon. This led to a phenomenon spreading across social media to celebrate #PerezDay whenever the lefty took the mound. Perez took notice and the warm reception from the fans motivates him to deliver his best for his team and this city, as he explained on MassLive’s The Fenway Rundown podcast.
"“As soon as they started to post that in the media, I went like, ‘Oh my God.’ This is going to be special for me, but I have to do things better. Not hard, not more than I can do, but I have to go out there and do the best performance I can do. Especially for the fans. Perez Day, for me, is one of the best days of my life. Every five days just go out there and know that people say, ‘This is going to be a Perez Day, we have to watch the game. It’s really good. I promise to the fans and to all of Boston, the city, that I’ll be ready for going out there and doing my best and trying to win the games for my team and for the city.”"
Perez was thrilled to generate this level of excitement for the city but he did so by pitching in empty ballparks. It remains uncertain if fans will be allowed at Fenway to begin the season but there’s growing optimism that the park will be packed at some point this year as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available. #PerezDay will be taken to another level if the lefty has the energy from the fans to fuel him on the mound.
The Red Sox declined the $6.85 million club option on his contract, only to bring him back at a reduced rate that reflects current market conditions. Perez agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal last month that includes a $6 million option or $500,000 buyout for 2022. Boston still needs to clear a spot on the 40-man roster before the deal can be officially announced.
Boston’s rotation is poised to take a significant leap forward this year. Rodriguez is expected to return for Opening Day and they should get Sale back in the rotation by mid-season. The addition of free-agent Garrett Richards helps solidify the middle of the rotation alongside Nathan Eovaldi.
Perez isn’t being counted on to lead this rotation but he can still be a valuable piece. He might be the fifth starter when this rotation is at full strength but he’ll be among the league’s best No. 5 starters if he can replicate last year’s production.
The most popular players don’t necessarily need to be superstars. Those who exceed expectations or provide the team with a spark with their infectious energy are often embraced by Red Sox Nation. Perez checked both of those boxes last season to earn the respect from this fan base.
The Red Sox are going to need more from their rotation this year if they are going to climb out of the basement of the AL East and Perez will be counted on to do his part. If he delivers as well as he did last season, #PerezDay will continue to be a day to celebrate.