'Dream come true': Peralta makes first ASG

Narváez also named as replacement; Brewers tie for MLB-high with 5 All-Stars

July 11th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers had three pitchers named to the All-Star team last weekend when the squads were first announced, and that was already enough for a franchise record.

Now, how about a fourth?

, the smiling 25-year-old from Moca, Dominican Republic, who came into the Brewers’ organization as a 19-year-old with a lively fastball and has developed into a complete pitching package, was told late Friday along with all of his teammates that he’d been added to the National League All-Star team. He’s a replacement for teammate Brandon Woodruff, who is lined up to start Milwaukee’s’ first-half finale Sunday, and by rule, would be ineligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic in Denver on Tuesday.

“I was waiting for this moment,” said Peralta, who is scheduled to start Saturday night against the Reds at American Family Field. “It’s a dream come true. This is the first one.”

Not only were the Brewers’ three frontline starters (Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Peralta) -- along with their closer (Josh Hader) -- named to the All-Star team, but backstop Omar Narváez was named as a replacement as well, taking the place of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who elected to opt out Saturday in favor of rest. 

“Omar has been enormous for us. He’s been a real glue for us,” said manager Craig Counsell when asked about Narváez’s All-Star candidacy following Molina’s selection.  

Narváez has experienced a breakout season in Milwaukee, entering play Saturday with a .301/.397/.471 slash line with eight home runs and 26 RBIs, including a 136 OPS+. He’s done so while helping guide Milwaukee’s pitching corps to a 3.44 team ERA, tied for fifth in the Majors, with a Major League-leading 912 strikeouts and a batting average against that is tied for tops in the bigs (.213). 

“He’s hitting fourth in our lineup and kind of worked his way there and [has] been pretty consistent now,” Counsell added. “Your catcher hitting in that spot in your lineup? That’s impactful, and the fact that he’s a left-handed bat is impactful. He’s a big fit for us and he’s been a really important player for us in this first half.”

Unlike Burnes, Hader and Woodruff, Peralta wasn’t initially voted onto the All-Star team via the player ballot. But he certainly has the numbers. Among NL qualifiers, he’s second to Mets ace Jacob deGrom with a .132 opponents’ average, third with a 34.5 percent strikeout rate, fifth with a 2.23 ERA and fifth with a 0.90 WHIP.

“He's one of the top pitchers in the National League, starter or reliever,” Counsell said. “What he's done, making the transition to starting, is special. It's elite. He's a guy hitters don't want to face. He's a guy who's been consistent. The number of hits he's given up and the strikeouts, it's a remarkable-looking stat line, really. He's a big reason why we're sitting where we're at.”

The Brewers acquired Peralta as one of three teenage pitching prospects from the Mariners in a 2015 Winter Meetings trade for first baseman Adam Lind.

Peralta made it to the Majors in one of the most memorable debuts in Brewers history on Mother’s Day in 2018. His family had never seen him pitch professionally, but they made the journey to Colorado Springs ahead of Peralta’s scheduled start for the Triple-A SkySox, only to see him scratched at the last minute because Brewers starter Chase Anderson was sick. Up in Denver, Peralta set a Crew record with 13 strikeouts in his debut and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a Milwaukee win.

Peralta threw almost exclusively fastballs then, varying his grip to get different results. In the ensuing seasons, he has moved between the rotation and the bullpen and added more pitches, notably a slider he honed with former Brewers pitcher-turned-coach Carlos Villanueva, and a changeup. Peralta showed promise in the shortened 2020 season, and in ’21, he’s had a breakout.

“This is a compliment [for the entire organization], you know?” Peralta said. “Everybody helps. You cannot go to an All-Star Game by yourself. It’s a compliment for everybody.”

Of going to Denver with three pitching partners, Peralta said, “It looks nice when you have teammates and players that you played with in the Minors, too, and came up together. Going to an All-Star Game is a big thing for me.”

Counsell shared the news with Peralta and his teammates after Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Reds.

“I kind of went in with a serious look on my face and said our starting pitcher won't be able to sleep tonight because he's going to be in the All-Star Game,” Counsell said. “That put a big smile on Freddy's face, for sure.”

Narváez found out about his selection while stretching in the weight room ahead of the Brewers’ 4-3 loss Saturday against the Reds.

His teammates -- including the pitchers with whom he routinely works -- and coaches came to congratulate him on his first All-Star selection.

“It was a pretty awesome moment,” Narváez said. “I really appreciate the team, all the effort everybody did for me.”

Narváez’s selection is the end result of hard work spent with the Brewers’ coaching staff and its pitchers in improving his defense to go along with his rising bat. 

“It means a lot,” Narváez said. “It's not only my success. There's a lot of people behind me [who've] really helped me to be in this spot right here. I really congratulate the people behind me who put me in this position to be an All-Star.”