DETROIT — Jhonny Peralta feels like he’s back, and the numbers support his case.
Peralta, a question mark to begin the season after a subpar performance in his second full year in 2006, has provided the answers through a first half that saw him enter Tuesday with a .284 batting average, 14 home runs and 47 RBIs in 78 games.
“I feel very proud. I worked hard for that,” Peralta said. “It’s working very good right now. I’m making better contact with the ball and driving in runs. That was something I didn’t do too much last year.”
The 25-year-old Peralta is pretty much doing everything better than he did last year — a season in which he slumped at the plate and in the field.
Entering Tuesday, he was above .280 after hitting just .257 last year, while his on-base percentage/slugging percentage was more than 100 points higher at .836 compared to .708. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, 3-1 (152-56) last year, was at 2-1 (66-33).
Defensively, he’s getting to more balls and making more plays.
“I think that he recognized that he needed to make adjustments (after last year),” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, who claimed he saw improvement in Peralta’s game at the end of last season. “It happens a lot with guys in their second or third full season.
“He’s done a great job this year and he hasn’t stopped working. His routine is better. Every area of his game has improved.”
Peralta’s effort appears to have regained the confidence of Wedge, who batted him third Tuesday for the second time in three games — a spot Peralta occupied to start last season.
“I think so, yeah,” Peralta said. “I feel the manager has a lot of confidence to put me in the third spot.”
Jake Westbrook feasted on the Tigers in consecutive outings during the 2004 season with seven perfect innings in relief that were followed by a complete-game victory in his first start of the year — performances that earned him a full-time spot in the rotation.
Since then it’s been famine.
In nine starts against Detroit since the two-outing span in ’04, Westbrook is 3-5 with an 8.87 ERA, allowing 47 earned runs and 68 hits over 472/3 innings.
Cool hand Raffy
Rafael Perez has handled his transition from minor league starter to big league reliever to late-inning big reliever well.
“It doesn’t matter where I pitch. I feel comfortable,” said the left-hander, who entered Tuesday sporting a 1.90 ERA in 12 games.
That was apparent Monday, when Perez entered the game in the seventh inning with a one-run lead, no outs and the bases loaded, and left with the advantage intact.
“I didn’t feel anything,” Perez said. “I was just concentrating on making pitches and keeping the ball low in the strike zone.”
Aaron Fultz, on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his rib cage, played catch at Comerica Park on Tuesday and is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session on Thursday.
Wedge said the Indians still planned on activating Fultz after the All-Star break.
Wedge plans on watching the All-Star Game on July 10, but he won’t be making the trip to San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
“It’s important for our players to take a mental and physical break, and I’m going to try to do the same,” said Wedge, who was a coach on Ozzie Guillen’s American League staff last year in Pittsburgh.
Double-A Akron will send a league-high six players to the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 11. On the list are pitchers Randy Newsom and Reid Santos, catcher Wyatt Toregas, infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Jordan Brown and outfielder Brian Barton. Cabrera, the bounty from the Eduardo Perez trade to the Mariners last year, entered Tuesday leading the EL with 65 runs.
The Indians entered Tuesday with a better winning percentage (.611, 22-14) against teams above .500 then they owned against teams below .500 (.609, 28-18). Prior to sweeping the Devil Rays in a four-game series that ended on Monday, Cleveland was just 11-9 against last-place teams.
l The Indians got their 50th win in Game No. 82 on Monday after not reaching that win total until their 114th game last year. The 50-32 start is the best since Cleveland went 54-28 to start the 1999 season.
l Grady Sizemore is the youngest Indian (24 years, 334 days) to 500 hits since Carlos Baerga reached the milestone in 1993 at 24 years, 198 days.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.