MILWAUKEE — With talented young pitchers come growing pains.
The Milwaukee Brewers know there will be plenty of outings this season in which Wily Peralta makes people take notice of his talent but that there will be plenty of other times where the young right-hander leaves them scratching their heads.
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In four starts this season, the good Peralta has shown up for two outings, and the shaky version has come out in the other two. At age 23, ups and downs are going to be there. But as long as Brewers manager Ron Roenicke keeps seeing improvement, Peralta is going to learn on the fly in Milwaukee’s starting rotation.
“When you think about Wily at the beginning of the year, in spring training, I thought this was going to happen,” Roenicke said. “(I knew there was going to be) some not so good games. As long as we see some good ones from him, because of the upside that he has, I would like to give him every opportunity to do well.
But I don’t know how far that goes and how bad it has to be before I change my mind.”
Though there’s certainly no reason to pull the plug on Peralta in the rotation this quickly, he had two drastically different outings last week alone. Against San Francisco on Tuesday, Peralta was given an 8-3 lead but couldn’t get out of the fifth inning to even qualify for the victory.
He wasn’t sharp in the early innings, then fell apart in a hurry in the fourth and fifth. His delivery sped up, his mechanics got out of whack and he couldn’t locate his pitches.
“He lost velocity in the fourth inning, and he lost velocity in the fifth inning,” Roenicke said. “I don’t know if it’s because he’s aiming the ball, but the ball didn’t come out the same.
“I don’t know what happened in the fourth and fifth inning (against the Giants). He gets out of rhythm and starts aiming the ball and the fastball doesn’t have the same life on it.”
Sensing something was going on with Peralta, Roenicke decided to pair him with catcher Martin Maldonado for his Sunday start against the Cubs. Not that Peralta’s struggles have much to do with Jonathan Lucroy catching for him, but Peralta seems to have a certain comfort level with Maldonado dating back to their time together in the minor leagues.
Against the Cubs, Peralta was much sharper and made just one mistake – a hanging slider Anthony Rizzo hit out of the park for a two-run home run – in tossing 6 2/3 innings to pick up his first win of the season.
“The key to the outing was I wasn’t just using fastballs,” Peralta said. “My off-speed was much better. I was struggling my last outing with my off-speed (pitches), and today I finally got it (going).”
Peralta has a history of inconsistency at the start of seasons. The Brewers caught a glimpse of the ceiling Peralta has when he was called up at the end of last season and are hopeful he’ll settle in. Command of his live fastball that can reach 96 to 97 mph and the continued development of his slider and change-up will go a long way in how successful Peralta is this season.
“His command last year, it took him a while to get it,” Roenicke said. “He had a lot of starts in Triple-A where he didn’t have his command and then he got to the point where he’d have command and the next start he wouldn’t. Then he got to a stretch of 10 games where his command was really good before he came up here. Once he came up here, he was good.
“I don’t know if he is just going through a period where he starts slow in his command. Obviously, the longer he plays, we will be able to see. He’s young. He’s finally getting into his body and figuring out his mechanics enough to the point where he can repeat pitches.”
Not only is Peralta trying to adjust to pitching in the big leagues, he’s trying to get comfortable with all the attention that comes with being a starting pitcher at this level. Peralta is confident but very soft-spoken.
There’s likely going to be a day when Peralta consistently pitches to his ability, but it might not be this season. It’s hard to have patience in sports, especially when a team expects to contend for a spot in the postseason, but baseball is a game of patience. Peralta’s day will come; there are just going to be plenty of speed bumps along the way.