CINCINNATI — Wandy Peralta feels as if he has been granted a key to paradise and right now he feels like Wandy in Wonderland.
And he carries an almost frightened demeanor — extremely soft-spoken, almost a whisper, an avoidance of eye contact and the look of a guy hiding in the bushes when somebody shines a light in his eyes.
All of that is to be expected from the 25-year-old left handed relief pitcher. He speaks no English, although he is from San Francisco — uh, San Francisco, Dominican Republic. It was his first day in a major league clubhouse Friday after the Cincinnati Reds stunned more than a few people by plucking him off the Class AAA Louisville roster.
PERALTA WAS NOT ON THE 40-man roster, so the Reds had to designate outfielder Kyle Waldrop for assignment to make room for Peralta. And that’s why it was so stunning to everybody, including Peralta, that he is wearing a Reds uniform today and occupying a chair in the bullpen, awaiting his major league debut.
As he spoke through team translator Julio Morillo, Peralta never made eye contact with an interviewer, talked directly to Morillo, and spoke in a low whisper. But his message was loud and clear.
When asked how surprised he was to be called up, he said, “It was an amazing feeling. I couldn’t believe it. I just lay down on my bed and said, ‘Oh, my God, I made it.’ I made it to the big leagues and for 10 minutes I couldn’t believe it. But at that moment, my dream was true.”
Peralta was about to board the team bus in Louisville for a trip to Indianapolis when manager Delino DeShields stopped him and said, “Don’t get on that bus. Congratulations, you are going to the majors.”
PERALTA WAS SIGNED OUT of the Dominican in August of 2009 and spent three years with the Dominican Summer League Reds and the Arizona Rookie League Reds. The Reds bounced him back-and-forth between the bullpen and the rotation. At Class A Dayton in 2013 he made 40 bullpen appearances and was 2-and-7 with a 3.80 earned run average. They made him a starter the next year at high Class A Bakersfield and he was 7-and-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 28 starts.
Last year at Pensacola, they bounced him back and forth, 20 starts and nine bullpen appearances. But along the way Peralta was developing a change-up and some Reds staffers saw ‘bullpen’ written on his resume, “As the best way for him to become a prospect,” said manager Bryan Price.
AND THAT IS JUST DANDY with Peralta because it was his passport to the majors.
“I really like it,” he said. “Coming from the bullpen I feel way more comfortable. All my pitches are working really good since the beginning of the season. I made the adjustment right away. Pitching for two innings I get to use all my pitches and I can give everything I have right from the beginning.”
And how did he develop his change-up? In the best way possible. He was tutored by former Reds pitcher Mario Soto, owner of one of the game’s all-time best change-ups. Soto, a starter, had only two pitches — a fastball and a change-up. Both were so good he didn’t need a third, fourth or fifth pitch. Two were just enough.
“It is a pitch I have been working on since I turned professional,” said Peralta. “I worked in the minors with Mack Jenkins (current Reds pitching coach) and Mario Soto. They say he had the best change-up ever and every time I went home to the Dominican he worked hard with me a lot on that pitch.
“And the development of that pitch for me has been amazing and it is my best pitch right now,” he said.
PRICE HOPES TO EASE PERALTA into a non-stressful situation for his debut, a soft-cushion approach, no bases-loaded and one-out situations. Preferably he’d like to give him a clean inning to start.
“He has a really good arm and at some point last year he transitioned from starter to bullpen,” said Price. “Some people in our system felt that would be a role that would allow him to take that jump into prospect status.
“So his velocity came up, which was great, but he perfected a change-up and giving him smaller chunks of responsiblilty has played out well,” said Price. “He has made some spot starts for Louisville, but since he transitioned to the bullpen his numbers have really improved greatly — hits per innings, strikeouts, ERA and overall strikes and decreasomg walks. That has us pretty excited about what we think he can do.”
Peralta began the season at Class AA Pensacola and was 0-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 bullpen appearances. Over 17 2/3 innings he walked three and struck out 20. He was promoted early to Louisville and was 4-an-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 37 appearances (two starts).
Peralta anxiously awaits the day the phone rings and they tell him to warm up and then he makes that trot from the left center bullpen to the mound.
“It’s the time, as a professional baseball player, for what you have been waiting for,” he said. “It will be really exciting to go out there for my debut.”
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