PHOENIX -- The Brewers' award candidates begin with the man who threw their first pitch last season. Wily Peralta has his sights set on a comeback campaign.The Brewers have not had a National League Comeback Player of the Year since the award was introduced by Major League Baseball in 2005,
PHOENIX -- The Brewers' award candidates begin with the man who threw their first pitch last season. Wily Peralta has his sights set on a comeback campaign.
The Brewers have not had a National League Comeback Player of the Year since the award was introduced by Major League Baseball in 2005, but Peralta spent the offseason brainstorming ways to put himself in that sort of discussion to avoid the sort of slow start that marred his previous two seasons. The problem was particularly acute last year, when Peralta drew the first Opening Day start of his career, but found himself searching for answers at Triple-A Colorado Springs by the second week of June.
"I feel pretty good about how my spring went this year," Peralta said. "It's usually a little rough for me in Spring Training, but this year was different. I think the World Baseball Classic helped me out a little bit."
Peralta pitched for the Dominican Republic in the first round of the tournament, so he ramped up a bit earlier than other Brewers pitchers in camp. Health is playing a role, too. In 2015, he missed two months with a left oblique injury, and continued to fight discomfort when he came off the disabled list. That injury impacted Peralta's offseason training and, he believes, played a role in his poor start to 2016.
Peralta lasted four innings in a loss to the Giants on Opening Day and had a 6.68 ERA when he was demoted to the Minors on June 12. He salvaged his spot in the Brewers' plans by posting a 2.92 ERA in 10 late-season starts, but not before struggling just as mightily in the Minors. Peralta had a 6.31 ERA in 10 starts for Colorado Springs.
"That injury didn't want to go," Peralta said. "I had a hard time doing my normal workouts and preparing, and getting my arm in shape. Now, thank God, I'm healthy. I was able to get back on the mound earlier than I normally do.
"I think this season is going to be really big."
Peralta is one of at least two Brewers comeback candidates, though the other would stretch the definition of "comeback." First baseman Eric Thames is back in the Majors after three seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization, where he posted huge numbers, but did not face as much premium velocity.
"I think what we have to remember for Eric is it's an adjustment," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He spent three years in a different environment. I think the clubhouse part of the adjustment, he's really comfortable with. But the [daily] schedule is still quite a bit different than he is used to, and the season schedule is going to be an adjustment for him."
In Korea, there are fewer games per week, and less on-field activity before games.
"I have to be aware of those things as we go forward," Counsell said. "Getting him into a routine that he's comfortable with, I think he's close to that. And I think it's been recognizable."
The Brewers signed Thames to a three-year contract and do not have a top first base prospect, so there is incentive on both sides to make the transition work.
Peralta, meanwhile, is already popping up in trade rumors because the Brewers have too many starting pitchers and too few spots.
"I'm happy where I am, and I'm ready for anything," Peralta said.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.