Detroit Tigers’ Wily Peralta navigates ‘tough role’ as emergency pitcher for in-game injuries

Detroit Free Press

When Detroit Tigers athletic trainer Doug Teter emerges from the dugout, right-handed reliever Wily Peralta grabs his glove. Then, he waits for manager A.J. Hinch to signal to the bullpen.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, that’s one of Peralta’s roles this season. He has served as a starting pitcher, middle-innings reliever, high-leverage reliever and emergency pitcher.

“It’s a tough role,” Peralta said Wednesday, after he replaced an injured starter in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. “You don’t want your starting pitcher to get hurt every single time, but it is what it is. They call my name, and I have to be ready.”

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Peralta entered mid-game, without warming up in the bullpen, to replace an injured starter three times in May. He took over for Michael Pineda (right middle finger fracture) on May 14, Elvin Rodríguez (lower-body cramping) on Sunday and Joey Wentz (left shoulder strain) on Wednesday.

“I go to him at that point because I know he’s going to take his time,” Hinch said. “He’s going to get himself ready. And then he can go multiple innings when I’m in the bridge time of the game. I did promise him the next time I warm him up it’s going to be in the bullpen for a regular outing and not for an injury, knock on wood.”

Mid-game warmups aren’t easy.

For Peralta, he primarily throws fastballs and sliders in these situations.

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“The umpire will tell you to take your time,” Peralta said. “But after you throw a couple pitches, he asks you how many more. You got it in your mind that you got a guy on deck timing every single pitch that you throw. It’s just part of the game.”

Peralta doesn’t think he gets enough time to prepare his revered split-finger changeup, the pitch that always takes him the most practice reps to command with confidence. It’s not surprising that he used two splitters in Tuesday’s emergency appearance, accounting for 6.7% of his 34 pitches.

But Peralta has thrown 23.4% splitters in 2022.

“That’s the pitch that I need to throw the most in the bullpen” Peralta said. “Every outing that I’ve been warming on the mound, I haven’t thrown that many. That’s the pitch I’ve been having trouble with.”

Peralta also replaced Tyler Alexander (left elbow sprain) in the third inning April 29, though he warmed up in the bullpen. That turned out to be Alexander’s final start before landing on the injured list.

He started the May 8 bullpen game, too.

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Peralta, a 10-year MLB veteran, began his career as a starting pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers. He transitioned to a full-time member of the bullpen in 2018 with the Kansas City Royals, only to return to the starting rotation for 18 of his 19 games with the Tigers in 2021.

He had a 3.07 ERA across 93⅔ innings last season.

In 2022, Peralta controls a 0.81 ERA with 13 walks and 20 strikeouts in 22⅓ innings over 14 games (one start). He hasn’t allowed a run since May 18 against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

“It’s really tough, warming up in the middle of the game like that,” Peralta said. “It’s happened to me twice in a row now. I just try to do my best to warm up as quick as I can and be as sharp as a I can.”

Peralta boasts a 2.64 ERA since the beginning of the 2021 season, which ranks fourth in the American League and eighth in MLB among pitchers with least 100 innings.

Javier Báez gets break

Shortstop Javier Báez was not in the Tigers’ starting lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. It was a scheduled off day.

“It’s been in the workings,” Hinch said.

Hinch and Báez recently discusses two options: Play both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader and sit out Wednesday, or play one game of Tuesday’s doubleheader and start Wednesday.

“He and I both agreed that the day off would be better for him,” Hinch said.

Báez, 29, is hitting .197 with three home runs in 40 games this season.

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He has 11 extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, six walks, 41 strikeouts and a .236 on-base percentage. In his past 29 games, covering the entire month of May, Báez has one home run and two RBIs.

The Tigers signed Báez to a six-year, $140 million contract in December.

Waiting for info

Left-hander Joey Wentz, called up as the 27th man for Tuesday’s doubleheader, exited his second MLB start in the fifth inning due to a left shoulder strain. The 24-year-old prospect tossed four scoreless innings.

The Tigers are waiting for more information, but Hinch said the organization won’t have an exact diagnosis or treatment plan until Wentz completes a “battery of tests” over the next couple days.

“For the transaction, he has been returned to the minor leagues as the 27th man,” Hinch said. “When somebody comes up for the 27th man, he’s not deemed injured here. He might go on the minor-league IL, but he’s not going to be on our injured list.”

Just a formality

After Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Tigers transferred Casey Mize (right elbow sprain) to the 60-day injured list. The move opened a spot on the 40-man roster.

The Tigers placed Mize on the injured list April 15, so the 25-year-old isn’t eligible to return until June 14.

“He’s not going to come back within the timeframe of 60 days, so it’s a roster spot,” Hinch said. “Casey has played catch for multiple days in a row and reported progress, which is good, but he’s not going to be game ready by the time his 60 days are up. That was a no-brainer.”

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

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