DETROIT – The first thing you must know about Pirates pitcher Dillon Peters is that he’s a package deal of sorts. To be a fan of the man, you’ve got to appreciate the Dillon Peters that rules the mound every bit as much as the one you might overlook in a crowded room.
The king of the hill looms large and uses a variety of deceit to confound opposing hitters. The guy next door stands 5-foot-11 and is nothing if not honest about his approach.
The Dillon Peters who talks to reporters after his outings seems genuinely surprised that anyone would want to congratulate him simply for doing his job; he’s almost bashful as they probe his mind for the reasons behind his recent success. The Dillon Peters who stares down batters from the mound knows exactly what all the fuss is about, and he’s eager to ride that wave as long as it lasts.
Of course, the first Peters would never crow about the second’s accomplishments — “[I] just attack the hitters and keep them on their heels,” he offered with a shrug following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Tigers in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Comerica Park that they would go on to split — so to appreciate what Dillon Peters brings to the table, you’ll really just have to catch him in action.
Because what he’s doing lately is pretty spectacular.
In eight outings so far this season, Peters has yet to allow a run. After his 3 1/3-inning start Wednesday, his scoreless streak stands at 16 2/3 frames, the longest scoreless stretch to start the season for a Pirates pitcher since Paul Wagner began the 1996 campaign with 17 1/3 spotless innings.
Some of it is good fortune, like when second baseman Josh VanMeter made a diving gloveside stop on the outfield grass and flipped it to first to rob Jonathan Schoop of a near-certain hit that instead ended the first inning.
Other parts entail Peters simply grabbing the bull by the horns. He sat down leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman swinging twice and allowed just two balls in play and in the air during his time, neither for a hit.
Whichever way you choose to look at it, the two sides have combined for some pretty impressive numbers, including just two hits allowed in 2022. Oh! And the scoreless streak, which off-the-field Peters will almost certainly downplay as not a huge deal.
“We’ve got a long few days ahead of us, and I just wanted to get out there and just attack [the Tigers] early, and get ahead early,” was all he offered Wednesday.
Entering the ’22 season, the 29-year-old had parts of five seasons under his belt as a starter with middling results amounting to an 8-10 record and 5.48 ERA across 37 games. Then, in much the same way as Wednesday’s game — and all of Peters’ season, really — has played out, the two sides combined for some pretty favorable results.
First, Peters chose to do what he could to control his fate, employing the expertise of Tread Athletics during the offseason. The private training facility helped him add a couple of ticks to his fastball, and it also worked with him to add a slider to his arsenal.
Then, the Pirates decided they’d like to experiment a bit with piggybacking off an opener, a concept that’s gained popularity over the years among creative minds across the league. Peters, they figured, was one of the guys who might excel in the relief role of sorts, and it was off to the races from there.
“One thing we owe to the organization, and even more to the player, is to figure out what role suits them best,” manager Derek Shelton said.
If there’s one thing that Peters the competitor and Peters the everyman can agree upon, it’s that this role has certainly done wonders so far.
Even if it’s like pulling teeth to get the latter to admit it.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m gonna take the ball whenever they tell me that I need to throw, or when they’re expecting me to go out there, and get my job done. However long that is, whenever that is, I’m ready. …
“Everybody’s pulling for one another. We’re not just here having fun, we’re here supporting each other, and here working hard, and we’re trying to go kick some butt every day.”