Peralta Could Win the Closer Role this Spring
(Getty Images) Vs Rays 7/28/2008 @ Tropicana Field
With the Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen beginning to take some shape and form, the glaring question that is still out there shining bright is who might assume the closer’s role for 2011? Some have speculated recently that former Rays closer Rafael Soriano could possibly stroll back to the Rays for a one year contract, then embark again in the 2011 off season or at the Trade Deadline to another locale. If you believe that, I got a nice bit of land to sell you 30 miles deep in the Everglades.
Not that I wouldn’t love to see MFIKY (Mother Fudge(sic) I Kill You) back on the Rays mound to again promote some sort of stability to this Rays off season Bullpen purge. Soriano would give instant credibility to the Rays rebuilding process, but it would come at a astronomical gut shot (> $ 10 million) to their 2011 process of decreasing their payroll. Even if the Rays could promote an “out” into a Soriano 2011 contract that he could depart in late July before the Trade Deadline to a team poised for playoff chances, it might be a fantasy option. I still have that swamp land people? Are there any takers?
So with the idea of Soriano still floating up in the dream clouds of the optimistic few within the Rays Republic, let’s take a more realistic gander at a player who might have the solid credentials and moxey to simply scoot into the Rays closer spot right now for 2011.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon has pulled menagerie of a “closer-by-committee” approach before with the Rays, and if the season started today, I could honestly see him implementing it again until someone like Joel Peralta rises to the top. There is a formidable albatross hanging around the Rays Bullpen neck that Maddon will possibly go heavier into using his patented approach of using pitcher-to-hitter match-ups again.
When the Rays recently signed RHP Joel Peralta to a one year contract, it might have gone under the Rays Republic radar that he could be the eventual closer for this team in 2011. Peralta will be the oldest pitcher the Rays staff in 2011. His age will not be the defining factor to put him high on the list for consideration for the closer’s role. The right-hander signed after declining arbitration from the Washington Nationals, but the former Nats reliever did post some impressive numbers in a limited role for the Nats Bullpen in 2010.
Peralta has been recently compared as another “Dan Wheeler”-type pitcher for the Rays, but his 49 strikeouts in 39 relief appearances in 2010 begs to differ and shows he might have a better upside than Wheeler did for the Rays in 2010. And with his adjustments in 2010 while with the Nats, his plummeting ERA against left-handers (1.59) have given the Rays a reason to be optimistic in 2011.
Holding his opponents to a .170 batting average, Peralta only threw on the Major League level after the Nationals recalled him from Triple-A Syracuse on June 21,2010. Peralta only posted a 2-0 record with a 1.08 ERA to go along with a nifty 20-for-20 mark in the save department for Syracuse.
Peralta lowered his ERA to a paltry 0.64 in the late innings of close games in 2010 for the Nationals. In 12 late inning appearances, Peralta allowed only 4 hits and a solo run while striking out 20 batters. From the day of his 2010 debut (6/21) with the Nets, Peralta ranked 4th among National League relievers in innings pitched and second in on-base percentage( .214). His WHIP in those late inning appearances was a minute 0.50, all clear indicators that Peralta should be the front runner to the Rays closer spot.
The Dominican born Peralta is just finished his 2010 Winter season with the Dominican Winter League playing for the CIBA Giants in the Dominican Baseball League. Peralta did post a 0-1 record. But appeared in 15 games and produced a 1.17 ERA with 9 saves. In his 15.1 innings, Peralta surrendered one Home Run and two earned runs behind his .124 opponents batting average and 24 strikeouts.
After Peralta’s impressive Dominican Winter experience, it seems that Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman might have possibly found another “Benoit”-type Bullpen addition for the Rays this off season. But with the Rays Fan Fest date of Saturday, February 12, 2011 coming quickly, Peralta might just have the longest line for autographs even before the season begins.
Sure the line will be long to welcome and introduce him to the Rays Republic, but something tells me deep down that Peralta just might be that solid anchor and legitimate pitcher who might make all of us forget a little quicker the tremendous job done by Soriano in 2010. Peralta is not just one year wonder who is suddenly sprouted up out of the ground in 2010. He made it to the show as an outfielder with the Oakland A’s back in 1997, but was converted to a pitcher in 1999 by Joe Madden’s old club, the Los Angeles Angels.
Peralta then spent part time duty with the Angels (2005), Kansas City Royals ( 2006-2008) Colorado Rockies (2009) and then the Nationals. His overall career ERA of 4.22 might not speak “closer immediately to you,. Peralta’s time in the hitter friendly Coors Field while with the Rockies vaulted his ERA to the 6.02 mark, but has shown massive improvement after getting closer to sea level in Washington.
Right now (at least in my mind), Peralta has a solid chance to take the reins and be the reliever the Rays must have in the late innings. He has the MLB experience, the statistics to warrant a hard look, he is posting numbers this Winter to solidify a claim for the role this Spring.
The ball is now in Peralta’s hand to establish that his name is clearly written in ink at the end of the Rays Bullpen order instead of Madden possibly using a pencil to erase, or add Peralta’s name to that nights closer’s role using his old pitcher-to-hitter match-up system. Winners like Peralta want the ball. Hopefully Madden see this too and gives him the ball in the closing moments of games in 2011.