Next big thing: Freddy Peralta begins pathway to Brewers’ ace, will make first career Opening Day start

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Freddy Peralta is gearing up to be the next ace for the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff and has secured the nod for Friday’s Opening Day. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Among the Milwaukee Brewers’ revamped roster, the pitching staff will also look different in 2024.

Right-hander Freddy Peralta was named the Opening Day starter for the first time in his career, while being just the third Dominican-born Opening Day starter in franchise history. He had to wait an extra day before taking the Citi Field mound against the Mets in New York, as the Brewers’ first regular season game was pushed from Thursday to Friday because of rain.

Peralta, 27, made his MLB debut on May 13, 2018 and has been a full-time member of the Brewers’ rotation since 2021. The 2024 season is the last on his current contract, though the club does have an option for each of the next two years.

“Freddy embraces it. He certainly fits that mold and has performed in like roles in other things he’s done: being an All-Star, being a kid who’s pitched playoff games, big games,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said.

Peralta’s pitch arsenal consists of four pitches: fastball, slider, changeup and curveball. The fastball and slider, which averaged 94 and 82 mph, respectively, made up just over 70% of his pitches in 2023, according to Baseball Savant.

“For me and my family, it means a lot of good things, especially where I came from and I’m very grateful about myself, my teammates, my team, about life,” Peralta told earlier this month.

Peralta was the No. 2 starter in the Brew Crew rotation last season, compiling a 3.86 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 30 starts in 2023. He notched double-digit strikeouts in six of those starts and was named MLB’s National League Pitcher of the Month for August with a 5-0 record and 2.10 ERA.

“Freddy obviously a very tough guy to face, especially now that he’s healthy,” Brewers catcher Eric Haase said of Peralta. “He just needs to go out there and be himself. He obviously deserves an Opening Day start. He’s got really good stuff, (he’s a) good competitor, a great human being. I’m happy for him.”

Highlighting the team’s offseason departures is 2021 NL Cy Young winner and three-time NL All-Star Corbin Burnes, who was traded Feb. 1 to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for shortstop Joey Ortiz and left-handed pitcher DL Hall.

Wade Miley will start the season on the injured list after last Thursday’s scratch due to groin tightness in a spring training matchup against the San Francisco Giants, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Curt Hogg.

“Wade is in the best shape of his life. He has embraced nutrition (and) high-performance training,” Murphy said. “So I don’t think there’s a limit we can put on him. He’s 37 and his body (and arm have) some wear and tear on him. I want him out there every time he’s healthy.”

Additionally, right-handed ace Brandon Woodruff will begin the season on the 60-day injured list, following right shoulder surgery in mid-October. Woodruff missed four months last season as a result of a right shoulder sprain. He re-signed as a free agent with the Brewers on a two-year contract in February.

“It’s obvious we’re going to have to operate differently,” Murphy said. “You got to embrace it. We got three guys we’re without that we’re used to (Miley, Woodruff, Burnes) and Devin, and we just keep going.”

Other pitchers in the Brewers’ rotation to start the season include right-handers Joe Ross and Collin Rea, alongside left-handers Robert Gasser and Hall. Ross has not pitched in a big-league game since the 2021 season, due to multiple surgeries, including a second Tommy John surgery in 2022. Since then, he pitched 14 innings with the San Francisco Giants’ farm system last fall before signing a free-agent contract with Milwaukee in December.

Prior to the injuries, Ross produced the best season of his career in 2021 with 109 strikeouts through 108 innings pitched. He put together solid outings on the road as shown by a 2.91 ERA and .209 opponents’ batting average and allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 19 starts while earning a majority of his strikeouts in those starts. Ross is currently listed second on Milwaukee’s depth chart when factoring in Wooduff and Miley’s injuries, but it’s unconfirmed whether he will officially get the bump in game two Saturday.

Rea, listed as the probable starter Sunday, will start the year as the No. 3 arm in the rotation. Last season, he totaled an underwhelming 4.55 ERA and 110 strikeouts through 26 appearances and saw multiple stints in the minor leagues.

Devin Williams, the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year and Brewers closer, will miss the first 12 weeks of the season after a diagnosis for two stress fractures in his back. Williams earned a team-leading 36 saves and 1.53 ERA a year ago.

While Murphy did not confirm last week who would fill the hole during his absence, Peralta’s added confidence entering 2024 has landed him a new opportunity to prove his worth as the team’s ace pending free agency. Milwaukee will officially begin the 2024 campaign Friday on the road against the New York Mets, who are looking to bounce back to the postseason after finishing six games under .500 just a season ago.

Left-hander Jose Quintana, right-hander Luis Severino, and left-hander Sean Manaea are set to lead the Mets’ rotation, as closer and fan-favorite Edwin Díaz makes his return to the bullpen after missing all of 2023 due to injury. Meanwhile, first baseman Pete Alonso and shortstop Francisco Lindor headline the lineup.

“He’s more confident and he knows himself better,” Murphy said. “He’s matured steadily every year, and I’ve seen him since his rookie season. He’s got an awesome sense of responsibility to others that is a beautiful trait. … He’s so conscious of others, a great teammate.”

Anthony Remedios AN-thuh-nee reh-MEE-dee-os (he/him/his)
Sports Broadcast Producer, Phoenix

Anthony Remedios expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in community sports management. Remedios also works with Varsity Sports Show, Walter Cronkite Sports Network and Blaze Radio.