In spring training of 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers exhibited reckless and careless behavior in their handling of Wily Peralta.
Last March, Peralta was a 23-year-old righty poised to break camp with the big league club. Yet, despite the promise of a powerful young starter with a bright future, the Brewers treated him like a two-month rental.
In his third start of the spring, Peralta threw only 28 pitches in a six-inning start. Five days later, the Brewers allowed Peralta to throw 91 pitches in 5.1 innings. Thus, on regular rest in March, the Brewers’ best, young arm tossed 63 more balls than he had in his previous start.
That is absolutely insane, dumb and any other negative adjective you want to add. It simply should never happen.
It’s no wonder Peralta’s ERA in April was 5.02 to go with a 1.465 WHIP. His May was even worse, sporting a 7.71 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in six starts.
That shocking jolt of added force to the arm certainly sapped Peralta’s strength and set back his physical readiness for the season. Most pitchers do go through a “dead arm” period as their body resets but then come back stronger. In Peralta’s case, his arm essentially went back to the starting line at the end of March and made the entire two opening months a nightmare.
The Brewers are fortunate he didn’t end up on the disabled list with a tear, a strain or any number of problems that could have easily occurred with the sudden, increased workload. Then, in another mind-boggling decision, he threw 81 pitches in a game just five days later. This time he only lasted 4.1 frames in his outing.
Sure, the total number of tosses went down, but his pitches per inning actually went up from 17.1 to 18.7 in that final start. As much as overall pitches can take a toll, the stress put on an arm within a single inning often has a greater negative effect. On both counts, manager Ron Roenicke and the coaches were foolish and thoughtless in their approach.
Prepping a pitcher for the opening of the season is a challenge, and it’s something trainers and coaches struggle with each year. I’m more of the old-school belief that pitchers should be throwing a lot while new-school arguments favor less pitches early in a career. Either way, nearly everyone agrees that building up a pitcher’s arm strength and stamina is a gradual, calculated process.
No pitcher should be throwing 50 pitches on his first day or increasing his pitch total from 28 to 91 in a five-day span in March.
Assuming there wasn’t any long-term damage or the onset of continuous arm issues caused by the Brewers’ negligence, Milwaukee’s staff appears to have dodged a major bullet with a talented starting pitcher.
For Peralta’s sake and the rest of the Milwaukee hurlers, let’s hope the Brewers are little smarter in 2014.