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For Peralta, 39, competing never gets old

After active winter, veteran right-hander vying for spot in Mariners' bullpen
MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this month, Joel Peralta took the mound in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with the eyes of his island upon him.

The venue was Estadio Quisqueya and the event was the Caribbean Series, the annual tournament between the winter league champions from the D.R., Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba. Peralta, who is entering his 12th season in the big leagues, didn't have to be there. But he says there was no other place he would have rather been.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this month, Joel Peralta took the mound in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with the eyes of his island upon him.

The venue was Estadio Quisqueya and the event was the Caribbean Series, the annual tournament between the winter league champions from the D.R., Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba. Peralta, who is entering his 12th season in the big leagues, didn't have to be there. But he says there was no other place he would have rather been.

"I just like to compete and pitch," Peralta, 39, said. "Fans in the Dominican don't get a chance to see us live and I wanted to do it for the fans, too. I'm also still working on stuff and I'm used to it. When I don't pitch in winter ball, I feel like I'm not the same."

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Peralta, who signed a Minor League deal with Seattle on Feb. 9 -- two days after the end of the Caribbean Series -- is in camp as a non-roster invitee vying for a job in the bullpen against veteran pitchers like Justin De Fratus, Ryan Cook and Evan Scribner.

"There is competition in some of the spots in our bullpen and he does have a track record, but there does come a time when guys get to a certain age that you have to lay your eyes on him and how's he responding and what does it look like when he goes back-to-back days," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I'm really happy he's in our clubhouse. I think he's been a great addition. For a guy that has been around as long as he has and where he is at in his career, the energy he brings every day is awesome."

Peralta went 3-1 with three saves and a 4.34 ERA in 29 innings for the Dodgers last year while spending almost half of the season on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder and a neck sprain. The Dodgers did not pick up his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

Peralta was an integral piece of the Tampa Bay bullpen from 2011-14, compiling a 3.58 ERA, 1.054 WHIP and 293 strikeouts in 296 appearances covering 269 1/3 innings.

He has also pitched with Nationals, Rockies, Royals and Angels.

"He loves the game and he's going to play as long as he can" Servais said. "Where does he fit? He'll let us know."

For his part, Peralta credits his participation in winter ball for his success.

"I've been playing every year since 2001, so it wasn't just this year, it's been every year," he said. "For me, winter ball was actually the league that taught me to pitch and trained me to be here in the big leagues. I didn't have to wait for Spring Training to come back and work on things because I used to winter to improve against good hitters. Winter ball was the bridge to get here and stay here."

Peralta allowed one run on four hits in 3 1/3 innings for the Dominican Republic in games against Puerto Rico, Cuba and Venezuela during the Caribbean Series. The veteran right-hander also gave up two runs on seven hits with 10 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings for Gigantes del Cibao during the regular season in the Dominican Winter League. He also pitched for Toros del Este and the Leones del Escogido, the league champions, during the playoffs.

Peralta, who will turn 40 on March 23, said there were four or five teams interested in signing him before the start of the Caribbean Series, but the Mariners provided the best chance to pitch in the big leagues. He doesn't know how long he will continue to pitch after this season.

"As long as I feel healthy and get hitters out, my age is not a big deal," he said. "The day when I feel I can't get anybody out, that's the day for me to go home. I don't know when that happens, but it's not this year."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB.

 

Seattle Mariners, Joel Peralta