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Healthy Peralta looks to lead young rotation

Bounceback season from right-hander key to club's stability on mound
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

This is the first of a series of stories going around the horn with the 2016 Brewers. First up: The starting rotation.

PHOENIX -- Wily Peralta went home at the end of a maddening 2015 season and pondered what had gone wrong. The year before, he'd been a 17-game winner and the Brewers' most valuable pitcher, but an oblique injury limited him to 20 starts in 2015 and contributed to a 4.72 ERA.

This is the first of a series of stories going around the horn with the 2016 Brewers. First up: The starting rotation.

PHOENIX -- Wily Peralta went home at the end of a maddening 2015 season and pondered what had gone wrong. The year before, he'd been a 17-game winner and the Brewers' most valuable pitcher, but an oblique injury limited him to 20 starts in 2015 and contributed to a 4.72 ERA.

Peralta noted the one thing that had been missing: yoga.

"I did it in 2013, 2014. Not last year," he said.

Why did he stop?

"I felt like I was all right," Peralta said. "I guess I wasn't."

Healthy again and entering his age-27 season, Peralta aims to reclaim his position atop a Brewers rotation that includes another bounceback candidate in Matt Garza, plus Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann and newcomer Chase Anderson. That is the projected starting five, though not necessarily in that order, but manager Craig Counsell and general manager David Stearns have been looking beyond those five pitchers to options such as Zach Davies, Jorge Lopez, Ariel Pena, Tyler Cravy, Chris Capuano, Hiram Burgos and others.

Video: Anderson and Davies discuss offseason workouts

Every team in baseball, Counsell notes, employed at least eight starting pitchers in 2015. The Orioles and Pirates were the most fortunate, using eight starters apiece. The Royals used 10 en route to winning the World Series. The Brewers used 11, some of whom debuted after the club opted to remove struggling veterans Garza and Kyle Lohse from the rotation in order to evaluate options for the future. The Dodgers, even with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke reliably at the top, used 16 starting pitchers last season.

"It's such a reality of managing a roster," Counsell said. "You know you're going to need more guys for that. If you're lucky, it only adds up to 30 extra starts [beyond the initial starting five], but that adds up to another spot that's really important. I think it's an area we have strength in."

The Brewers already know who they will oppose on Opening Day; Giants manager Bruce Bochy named Madison Bumgarner his starter for April 4 at Miller Park, long before Spring Training began. Counsell made no such declaration on Sunday as pitchers and catchers took part in their first full squad workout.

"We're not ready for that yet," Counsell said. "But we'll get there. It's the 'first,' so we all get excited about it, but they'll all pitch the same number of starts throughout the season."

Peralta is certainly a candidate. First, he'll have to navigate a healthy spring.

"I worked a little bit harder," Peralta said of his winter regimen. "I did a lot of treatment to try to be healthy for the whole season. I switched my routine a little bit. More agility stuff. I didn't lift too heavy. I went running more. My weight is down. I lost like 10-15 pounds. My goal right now is to try to be healthy the full season. I know that if I'm healthy, I'm going to be all right."

Peralta's down year came at a particularly inopportune juncture, since he was eligible for arbitration for the first time. He settled with the Brewers for $2.8 million.

Last season, Peralta was 1-5 with a 4.00 ERA before feeling a tinge in his left side, forcing him to the disabled list for the first time in his Major League career. He returned in late July and felt "great" for four starts before the discomfort returned. He was shut down again about 10 days before the end of the season.

"It got worse and worse," Peralta said. "Man, that killed me. Frustrating. It was my first year since 2007 [when I underwent Tommy John surgery] that I was on the DL. Every year after that, I was healthy and pitched the whole season.

"When you're healthy and you're doing bad, that's one thing. When you're hurt, that's hard."

A new year offers Peralta and the Brewers a chance to start over.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chase Anderson, Hiram Burgos, Chris Capuano, Tyler Cravy, Zach Davies, Matt Garza, Taylor Jungmann, Jorge Lopez, Jimmy Nelson, Ariel Pena, Wily Peralta