Gifted Peralta learning how to master mental part of pitching
MAY 09, 2014 3:30p ET
MILWAUKEE -- Wily Peralta got hit hard by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The young right-hander didn't have his best stuff, leaving quite a few pitches up in the zone. Peralta ended up allowing 11 hits in six innings, usually a sign a crooked number would be hanging in the runs column.
In a game that most likely would have gotten away from him last season, Peralta limited the damage to just two runs and kept Milwaukee's struggling offense in the game.
The Brewers knew Peralta was capable of tossing eight scoreless innings in any given outing, which he did in his previous start in Cincinnati. What they wanted to see was how the 25-year-old would react during starts in which things weren't going his way, something Peralta struggled with last season.
"I would say last year, especially early last year, if he would have been hit around there would have been a lot more runs scored," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He does a good job now, I think, of when he's not on his game -- and you can see he's frustrated and emotional and he gets mad -- after all those hits he still keeps them to two runs. That's maturity and hopefully he continues to do that."
Peralta began preparing for spring training two weeks earlier this offseason with hopes of avoiding his customary slow start. While that decision was aimed at trying to have his command sharp right away, Peralta still needed to solve the emotional issues that plagued him on the mound during his rookie year.
What Peralta did Wednesday was a good sign significant progress has been made in that regard. The result of mixing the strides he's made on the mental side of things with his physical gifts is a 2.17 ERA through seven starts.
"That's the thing that I've been working on ever since I've been in the minor leagues," Peralta said. "I've just grown up as a professional and as a man, too. I'm able to control the situation and not let it get away for a big inning. I'm going to just try and keep doing it."
Peralta allowed 10 or more hits twice in 2013, giving up six earned runs and not lasting longer than five innings in each outing. He'd lose his composure and get frustrated when things wouldn't go his way, often times letting the game slip from his grasp.
While dominating a game the way he did on May 2 in Cincinnati certainly provides confidence, working through starts in which he doesn't have his best stuff could be even more important to Peralta.
"Big confidence, man," Peralta said when asked what Wednesday's game could do for him. "It could have been worse. I was able to make pitches when I had to and battled all game.
"Earlier in my career I probably would have let a couple of more runs score. But today I took it one pitch at a time and made pitches when I had to."
There were signs this kind of breakthrough was coming, as Peralta had a 3.15 ERA over his final 15 starts in 2013. According to Fangraphs.com, Peralta's average fastball of 95.4 mph trails only Yordano Ventura, Garrett Richards, Nathan Eovaldi and Gerrit Cole for tops in the big leagues.
The movement Peralta gets on his fastball makes the pitch even more dangerous, but another key to his quick start has been his ability to command his slider -- a pitch he's thrown more in 2014.
Peralta has gone up against other teams' aces in three of his starts, helping the Brewers to wins over Clay Buchholz, Francisco Liriano and Andrew Cashner.
"That's important," Roenicke said of Peralta's ability to match up against top of the rotation starters. "Sometimes you look at who he is matched against and you wonder what the outcome is going to be, and Wily has won."
Peralta is certainly going to endure a few rough outings over the course of his second full season in the big leagues, but the fact the talented right-hander has shown a large amount of progress this quickly is encouraging for the Brewers.
"Anytime you experience different things -- you fail at first and you figure out how to succeed, it's going to help," Roenicke said. "Somewhere down the road -- hopefully not for quite a while -- he's going to do the same thing (as Wednesday), be up in the zone, and if he can figure out how he got through it the last time and do it again, that's really good."
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