Peralta's lobbying leads to debut as pitcher

Late in tough loss, D-backs outfielder takes MLB mound for 1st time

May 15th, 2021

PHOENIX -- Pitching in the big leagues has long been a dream of David Peralta, who began his professional career at the age of 18 as a pitcher in the Cardinals' organization.

An arm injury changed Peralta's career path, temporarily ending his playing days. But after a few years away, he worked his way back to the big leagues through independent ball as an outfielder.

Peralta has put together a strong career, winning a National League Gold Glove Award and an NL Silver Slugger Award while compiling 802 career hits and becoming a fan favorite in Arizona. But until the ninth inning of Friday night's 17-2 loss to the Nationals at Chase Field, Peralta had never pitched in a Major League game.

"I was really nervous, to be honest," Peralta said. "When I got to the mound, I was like, 'Wow, this looks too close to me.' And then, the first guy was [Josh] Bell and he's a huge, and I'm like, 'OK, what am I going to do?'"

Peralta's career as a pitcher in the St. Louis organization ended with Rookie-level Johnson City in 2007. He threw an inning while playing for Rio Grande Valley in the independent North American League in '11, but that was it.

Since Torey Lovullo took over as Arizona's manager in 2017, Peralta had been lobbying for a chance to pitch an inning.

Lovullo has used a number of position players to finish out blowout games during his tenure, including Daniel Descalso, Alex Avila, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Stephen Vogt, but not Peralta. The reason was Lovullo knew Peralta's pitching background and didn't want him to try to do too much on the mound and injure his arm.

When Peralta mentioned it to Lovullo on Friday night, he finally got the go-ahead, but he first had to promise Lovullo that he wouldn't throw as hard as he could or use any breaking balls.

"I'm like, 'Trust me,'" Peralta said. "I just wanted to hear my name: 'Now pitching, David Peralta.' And I made it. I made my MLB debut as a pitcher. So, I'm happy with that. And it's one thing that I'm going to scratch out on my list."

After retiring Bell on a flyout to center field, Peralta allowed a single to catcher Yan Gomes, who was a home run shy of the cycle at the time.

"That was probably my most uncomfortable at-bat, probably the hardest at-bat of the day," Gomes said. "Nothing against their pitchers at all. It’s just, you kind of hear the crowd, he throws a strike, they’re cheering. It’s kind of tough. But you try to lock it in. I’ll be honest, once he got two strikes, I was like, 'Just don’t strike out.' You just try to kind of go to your approach, just try to put the bat on the ball."

Peralta allowed three runs in the inning, all of which came on an Andrew Stevenson homer. But he also struck out Yadiel Hernandez.

D-backs infielder Eduardo Escobar yelled from the bench for Peralta to throw the strikeout ball into the dugout, and it will now find its way into Peralta's trophy room, placed right next to the ball from his 800th career hit Thursday night.

"I got one strikeout," Peralta said. "So it's good, that's all I needed."

What the D-backs needed was something to take the sting away from their third straight loss and their ninth in the past 11 games.

"I think, sometimes, you've got to accept the defeat and you've got to move on," Lovullo said. "And we lost the battle today, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try and go out and take the next steps and win the next one. And you know, I think when you can bring a little humor to a tough day and finish it that way, I think kind of gets you a little more primed and ready for the next day."

The D-backs have plenty to sort out when it comes to their rotation. Seth Frankoff is getting the ball Saturday for his first MLB start, and Arizona is looking to fill Zac Gallen's rotation spot after the right-hander went down with a right UCL sprain this week.

Right-hander Riley Smith, who allowed eight runs in three innings and took the loss, will be evaluated before the D-backs commit to him staying in the rotation, Lovullo said.

But those were questions for another night. Friday belonged to Peralta, who traveled many miles through many cities before finally stepping on a big league mound.