Despite the Rays’ recent troubles, they continue to find small victories to celebrate. Last Thursday, reliever Joel Peralta gained the lead in the American League in appearances, 65, tied for first, and holds, 34. Since then, he currently leads the AL with 213 total appearances since becoming a member of the Rays in 2011. But talking to MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, Peralta credits his success to being different than most relievers.
“I work really hard, but the fact that I’m not a hard thrower and I don’t have that great stuff like a lot of guys do, especially in this division and this league — for three straight years, it’s really tough to do.”
Manager Joe Maddon appreciates that Peralta can deliver big results in a unique style.
“There’s a little ride on [his] fastball that makes it difficult for a lot of hitters to catch up. But then he’s got two really good other pitches, with the split and the curveball. “Furthermore, don’t underestimate the importance of deception. When you go out and you’re scouting guys all the time, everybody’s looking for that beautiful, clean delivery. And that’s all right. But I really dig funk and deception in the bullpen. And I think a little bit of the success he’s had is the funk he’s got.”
Peralta also credits his fearless mindset for helping him reach his achievements.
“Once, a friend of mine told me, ‘If you want to be successful, try to get in the hitter’s mind, keeping them off balance.’ I’m trying to get in the hitter’s mind every time I throw a pitch. So I’m trying to guess what he’s guessing. I’m trying to guess what he’s waiting for. Scouting reports help, and just being aggressive. Probably the most important thing is to not be afraid.”
The Rays certainly are not afraid of being different, considering Maddon does not shy away from using unconventional techniques with his team to get results. And while other teams may have their share of eccentric relievers, no one else commits to them like the Rays do. Before the season, the Rays re-signed Peralta to a two-year, $6 million contract with team options for three more years, believing that his methods, however unconventional, can help him be a big part of their bullpen not just now but the next few years as well. Even if you don’t see it purely based on the pitches he throws, Peralta’s hard work, deception, aggression, and all the miscellaneous things he does to beat hitters has made him into one of the Rays’ most reliable relievers. As the Rays have proven time and again, there is nothing wrong with being unconventional as long as it works.