Detroit Tigers’ Wily Peralta arrives to bolster bullpen, pumped about ‘huge pitch for me’

Detroit Free Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new face appeared in the clubhouse Saturday morning.

“Happy to be back,” Wily Peralta said.

The Detroit Tigers called up Peralta, who signed a minor-league contract in March, from Triple-A Toledo to bolster their bullpen. The 32-year-old arrived in Kansas City around 1 a.m. Saturday due to a delayed flight in his voyage from Iowa. The Tigers played three of four scheduled games against the Royals, as Sunday’s game was postponed due to rain.

“He can really pitch,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Wily comes to a team he’s very comfortable with. He’s been on this team. He’s important to us. He got a late start, so we gave him a crash course in the bullpen.”

WELCOME: Why Wily Peralta is so beloved inside Tigers’ clubhouse: ‘Huge part of this team’

Peralta didn’t arrive to spring training until April 3, so he couldn’t break camp on the Opening Day roster. The Tigers’ plan was to have Peralta join as soon as possible. To get ready, the 6-foot-1 right-hander made three relief appearances in the minor leagues.

He pitched two scoreless innings for Low-A Lakeland, then 2⅓ scoreless innings for Triple-A Toledo. He worked one outing for the Flying Tigers and two for the Mud Hens, totaling one walk and four strikeouts on 53 pitches.

“Everything went smooth,” Peralta said. “That’s a road I’ve been down before, so it’s not like I won’t be able to adjust quickly. I went there, made a couple outings and found my routine as a reliever.”

He threw 33 strikes for a 62.3% strike rate.

“I think my slider looks better than last year,” Peralta said. “I feel more comfortable with the grip throwing it this year. I’ve been able to throw it in Toledo for a strike when I want to, for strike-to-ball when I want to. Better command with it this year, and I think it’s going to be a huge pitch for me.”

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Last season, Peralta pitched 19 games, making 18 starts, for the Tigers. He posted a 3.07 ERA with 38 walks and 58 strikeouts in 93⅔ innings. He possesses plenty of experience as both a starter and reliever, with 138 starts in his 230 MLB appearances.

What made Peralta effective last season was his revered split-finger changeup, the second-best splitter in baseball in 2021 behind only Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Kevin Gausman. Opponents had a .080 batting average with a 36.6% whiff rate against Peralta’s top offering.

“That’s my main pitch,” Peralta said. “I’m not going to stop throwing it. I’m probably not going to throw it as much as a starter, but I’m going to pick my spots and throw it.”

FROM RED SOX SERIES: Spencer Torkelson answers questions; Tucker Barnhart shines behind the plate

Peralta will use all four of his pitches out of the bullpen, as he did as a starter last year: sinker (30.9%), four-seam fastball (24%), splitter (22.7%) and slider (22.5%). His fastball sat around 94 mph.

“Whatever gets the outs,” Hinch said. “He can use one pitch or five pitches. I don’t care. I just want him to get outs, work efficiently and throw strikes. … If you’ve been around him at all, you know he’s going to have a smile on his face and compete.”

To make room for Peralta on the 40-man roster, reliever Bryan Garcia was designated for assignment, and to make room for him on the 28-man active roster, pitcher Elvin Rodriguez was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

Rodriguez will join the Mud Hens’ starting rotation and build his stamina as a starting pitcher. The Tigers could use him as a spot starter later in the season, possibly as soon as next month.

The 24-year-old logged 18 starts for Double-A Erie last season. In his MLB debut, Rodriguez gave up four runs on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 2⅔ innings out of the bullpen.

Willi Castro joins Tigers

The Tigers put shortstop Javier Báez on the 10-day injured list Saturday with right thumb soreness. On Sunday morning, the team recalled utility player Willi Castro from Triple-A Toledo to take Báez’s spot on the roster.

MORE: Tigers manager AJ Hinch says Willi Castro ‘can help us win.’ What is he seeing?

Castro hit .265 (9-for-34) in eight games for the Mud Hens, tossing in two doubles, one RBI, two walks, 10 strikeouts and a .306 on-base percentage. He logged three stolen bases in four attempts.

The earliest Báez can return is Saturday.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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