PHOENIX — Freddy Peralta is heading back to the Milwaukee Brewers’ starting rotation.
The young right-hander has been impressive this spring, posting a 1.08 ERA while striking out 15 batters and walking only three over 8⅓ innings. He had a five-strikeout performance earlier this week against the Seattle Mariners.
“His last start was a great example of him pitching like a starting pitcher,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “The rhythm of the game, the pitches he used, the weapons he had for different hitters, different handedness of hitters — just really a complete step up from a couple years ago when he had to rely on the fastball, essentially.”
Peralta relied primarily on his fastball with an occasional curveball when he broke into the big leagues in 2018. As hitters began to figure him out, Peralta’s effectiveness fluctuated. After struggling out of the gate as a starter in 2019, he was used in a number of different roles, including a brief stint as a closer en route to a 5.29 ERA in 39 appearances.
Those struggles inspired Peralta to add a slider to his repertoire, a process that began in winter ball. His work paid off in 2020 as he posted a 3.99 ERA in 15 appearances (one start) with 47 strikeouts in 29⅓ innings.
To build on that, Peralta spent this offseason adding another pitch to his mix: a changeup. He hopes it will generate more weak contact and more ground balls while making his fastball, which averaged 93 mph last season, look even faster.
“It’s going to help me a lot,” Peralta said. “Hitters are going to see fastball, then changeup and I am preparing my other pitches, like my breaking ball. Then I’ll be able to use the fastball and it will look even harder.”
Peralta was 20, just three years removed from signing as a 17-year-old international free agent, and had never played above Rookie ball when the Brewers acquired him along with 19-year-old pitchers Daniel Missaki and Carlos Herrera from the Mariners in December 2015.
He rose quickly through the Brewers’ system and earned his major league debut in 2018 when Chase Anderson fell sick and was scratched late before a game in Colorado. Peralta was scheduled to start that day for the Brewers’ Class AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs but instead, took the mound for the Brewers and set a franchise record for a rookie by striking out 13 batters.
The Brewers knew that Peralta would need time to develop. After his rough 2019, they remained encouraged by his progress and signed him to a five-year, $15.5 million contract extension last spring.
“He’s worked really hard to get to this place and I think he’s had a great spring,” Counsell said. “He’s added things to his game that I think give him a chance of (having) a great, great season.”
Peralta will be Milwaukee’s fifth starter to begin the season. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes will start the first two games, followed by right-hander Adrian Houser and left-hander Brett Anderson. Right-hander Josh Lindblom will work out of the bullpen to start the season.
Counsell expects Lindblom to return to a starting role at some point. Counsell thinks using him in a multi-inning relief role, similar to late last season, will help Lindblom’s effectiveness.
“Josh is going to pitch a lot of innings for us,” Counsell said. “I think he’s capable of pitching a lot of innings and we’re going to lean on him for that. He’s not going to start one of the first five games. After that, who knows?
“He pitched out of the pen at the end of last year, so he’s game for it. He knows what he has to do.”
On the field
Brett Anderson struck out three and drove in a run with second-inning single as the Brewers and Giants played to a 2-2 tie Thursday night at Scottsdale Stadium.
In what was likely his last start before the regular season, Anderson worked into the sixth inning and allowed two runs on a home run by LaMonte Wade Jr while striking out three without walking a batter.
Anderson made five Cactus League appearances and went 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA while striking out 12 with just two walks in 15 1/3 innings.
"He pitched well," Counsell said. "I thought he located everything well. He had everything working, great pace. Got him into the sixth inning so we really accomplished everything we needed to. He’s had a real nice spring."
Brent Suter worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts while right-hander Ray Black hit 99 on the radar gun in his return to the mound after battling through some elbow inflammation.
"He was sharp for the first time out in about two weeks. He was sharp, he threw the ball really well."
After Wade put the Giants ahead in the top of the second, Corey Ray made it a 2-1 game in the bottom of the inning and later scored the tying run when Anderson singled to center.
From the infirmary
Third baseman Travis Shaw was pulled from Thursday's game as a precautionary measure after fouling a pitch off his leg but isn't expected to miss any time.
"It was just a bruise on his shin," Counsell said. "It was starting to swell up so we got him out of there."
Added to Milwaukee's roster earlier this month after returning to the team on a minor league contract, Shaw is batting .171 (6-for-35) with two home runs, seven RBIs and a .726 OPS.
Peralta gets his final Cactus League start Friday when the Brewers host the White Sox at American Family Fields of Phoenix. He'll be matched up against Chicago left-hander Carlos Rodon, who has struck out 10 in nine scoreless innings this spring and whiffed five Diamondbacks batters over four innings in his last outing.
Around the horn
Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has been sidelined by a sore wrist the past few days but took batting practice Thursday. He will go through a full workout Friday and is scheduled to return to the lineup Saturday when the Brewers face the Kansas City Royals. ... Counsell said the team was having discussions with veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract. The Auburndale native, 34, has appeared in four games this spring and posted a 6.00 ERA with three strikeouts in six innings. ... Second baseman Kolten Wong carried a five-game hitting streak into Thursday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants. Wong is hitting.500 (7-for-14) during that stretch with three home runs and four RBIs.
Here’s everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona
Here's everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona
WHO'S ON THIRD
After Keston Hiura moved to first base to make way for Kolten Wong, third base remained the only position without an obvious starting candidate.
The Brewers brought Travis Shaw back on a minor-league contract, hoping he can return to the form in 2017-18, when he hit 63 home runs with 187 RBI. While Luis Urias (above) and former top-prospect Daniel Robertson are likely to get a shot at winning the job, too.
Acquired last winter in a trade with Seattle, Omar Narváez (above) was supposed to give the Brewers a much-needed offensive boost while admittedly being a work-in-progress behind the plate. Instead, Narvaez was one of many Brewers hitters to struggle last season but surprised the Brewers’ coaching staff and front office with his defensive improvements. He’s back again in 2021 but will have to battle for a job with the likes of Manny Piña, Jacob Nottingham and Luke Maile.
With Brett Anderson returning on a one-year deal, the Brewers will open camp with all five spots of their starting rotation seemingly filled. But as history has shown, it’s rare to get through an entire season with just five starters. So who’s waiting in the wings if and when the Brewers need a replacement? Eric Lauer (above) and Freddy Peralta will try to earn spots in the rotation this spring, as will former UW-Stevens Point standout Jordan Zimmermann, who is in camp on a minor league deal.
PLAYERS TO BE NAMED LATER
It was a quiet offseason for the Brewers, but they weren’t unique in that regard. Across baseball, trades and signings seemed to be few and far between as players and teams both waited out a winter of uncertainty. Now that camps are open, there’s a greater likelihood of trades and with more than 100 free agents still unsigned, the Brewers’ roster could have a new face or two before the season gets underway.
WILL IT LAST?
Baseball is back, but for how long? That might be the single biggest question this spring, not just for the Brewers but baseball as a whole. The pandemic still rages on and though vaccinations are on the rise, one infection can quickly become an outbreak that leaves an entire team sidelined indefinitely. Players resisted requests and suggestions to delay the start of spring training, and the regular season, by a month believing they proved last year they can complete a season safely. But the margin for error is still slim and another full-blown shutdown of spring training, which would ultimately impact the regular season, remains one large outbreak away.
SPRING TRAINING ROSTER
Teams are allowed to have up to 75 players in major league camp at any given time and the Brewers go into camp with all 40 of their roster spots filled along with 20 non-roster invitees. Once the regular season begins, active rosters will revert to the original 26-player limit that was planned for 2020 before the pandemic suspended operations. Teams still are allowed to add an additional player to the active roster for doubleheaders and can have a taxi squad of up to five players — including one catcher — on all road trips. Rosters will expand again in September, but only by two spots for a total of 28.
Pitchers (31): Brett Anderson, Clayton Andrews*, Aaron Ashby*, Alec Bettinger, Phil Bickford, Ray Black, Zach Brown*, Corbin Burnes, Jake Cousins*, J.P. Feyereisen, Dylan File, Josh Hader, Blaine Hardy*, Adrian Houser, Thomas Jankins*, Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom, Hoby Milner*, Freddy Peralta, Angel Perdomo, Drew Rasmussen, Miguel Sanchez*, Ethan Small*, Brent Suter, Justin Topa, Quintin Torres-Costa*, Bobby Wahl, Devin Williams, Brandon Woodruff, Eric Yardley, Jordan Zimmermann*.
Catchers (6): Mario Feliciano, Payton Henry*, Luke Maile, Omar Narvaez, Jacob Nottingham, Manny Pina.
Infielders (11): Orlando Arcia, Zach Green*, Keston Hiura, Tim Lopes, Mark Mathias, Jace Peterson*, Daniel Robertson, Travis Shaw*, Brice Turang*, Luis Urias, Daniel Vogelbach, Kolten Wong.
Outfielders (11): Lorenzo Cain, Dylan Cozens*, Derek Fisher, Avisail Garcia, Tristen Lutz*, Billy McKinney, Garrett Mitchell*, Corey Ray, Pablo Reyes*, Tyrone Taylor, Christian Yelich.
* — Non-roster invitee
Manager Craig Counsell’s coaching staff will have a different look in 2021. Third-base coach Ed Sedar has transitioned into a new, advisory role while longtime bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel’s contract was not renewed by the team after last season.
Sedar will be replaced on the staff by Quintin Berry, who had been the Brewers' minor-league outfield and base-running coordinator for the last two seasons after concluding his 13-year playing career serving as a player/coach with Class AAA Colorado Springs in 2018.
Néstor Corredor and Adam Weisenburger will replace Hanel and Robinson Diaz as the team's bullpen catchers.
The rest of Counsell's staff will remain intact moving forward, including hitting coaches Andy Haines (above left) and Jacob Cruz. Chris Hook and Steve Karsay will handle Milwaukee’s pitchers and bullpen, respectively, and Pat Murphy returns for a sixth season as Counsell’s bench coach.
Jason Lane, the Brewers’ first base coach last season, returns, too, though Counsell planned to decide during spring training where Lane and Berry would be used in games this season.
Manager — Craig Counsell (7th season). Bases — Quintin Berry (1st season), Jason Lane (5th season); Bullpen — Steve Karasy (3rd season); Bench — Pat Murphy (6th season); Hitting — Jacob Cruz (2nd season); Andy Haines (3rd season); Bullpen catchers — Néstor Corredor (1st season); Adam Weisenburger (1st season).
CACTUS LEAGUE SCHEDULE
The Cactus League schedule underwent a last-minute adjustment earlier this month with the elimination of split-squad games. The Brewers will play 27 games in Arizona — 14 at American Family Fields and 13 on the road — and wrap up their exhibition slate with a pair of contests against the Rangers at Globe Life Park on March 29 and 30 before returning to Milwaukee ahead of their April 1 regular-season opener against the Twins at American Family Field.
February: 28 — @ Chicago White Sox. March: 1 — at Diamondbacks; 2 — vs. Athletics.; 3 — at Padres; 4 — vs. Cleveland.; 5 — at Rockies; 6 — vs Cubs; 7 — OFF; 8 — vs. Angels; 9 — vs. Giants; 10 — at Athletics; 11 — vs. Royals; 12 — at Cubs; 13 — vs. Rangers; 14 — at Mariners; 15 — vs. Padres; 16 — at Dodgers; 17 — OFF DAY; 18 — at Angels; 19 — vs. Diamondbacks; 20 — at Reds (7 p.m.); 21 — vs. Mariners; 22 — vs Cleveland; 23 — vs. Dodgers; 25 — at Giants (8 p.m.); 26 — vs. White Sox; 27 — at Royals; 28 — at Reds; 29 — vs. Rangers (Arlington, Texas); 30 — vs. Rangers (Arlington, Texas).
(NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all games start at 2:10 p.m. local time prior to March 14 and 3:10 p.m. after, due to Arizona not observing Daylight Savings Time)
IF YOU GO
Unlike previous seasons, fans will not be able to watch the team’s workouts, which take place on the complex’s ancillary fields. That means no opportunities for kids — little and big alike — to get autographs and pictures. The team store at American Family Fields will be open and the team announced last week that a limited number of fans — up to 23% of capacity at the 10,000-seat stadium — will be allowed to attend games when Cactus League play gets underway.