Ron Roenicke and Rick Krantiz could see it.
So would Martin Maldonado, who would then fire the ball back to Wily Peralta at a high rate of speed.
A bloop hit there, a walk here, and the 24-year-old would get agitated.
"It really got away from him and you’d see the big innings," Roenicke said of Peralta’s composure.
Those big innings came in bunches early for Peralta, who was one of several unproven arms the Milwaukee Brewers relied upon at the start of 2013.
He allowed 111 hits and 70 runs (57 earned) in his first 17 starts of the year. Opponents hit .294 off him and his 5.58 earned run average was made many wonder if the Brewers made the right decision in going with Peralta as an integral part of the rotation right out of spring training.
There were flashes of the pitcher who allowed just eight runs in 29 innings in 2012, like allowing two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings at Chicago on April 9 and limiting a potent Texas Rangers lineup to two earned runs and five hits over six innings on May 7.
But, for the most part, the first half of the season was rough for the first-year player, and a lot of it had to do with keeping his emotions in check.
"Every pitcher goes through it. It’s not like they’re all exempt from it," said Kranitz, the Brewers pitching coach. "That’s what happens. You have to have a high state of concentration to pitch here. And the more pitches that you stay focused on and concentrate on, the better chance you’re going to have. What happens is when you lose that and you start drifting away it’s really difficult to reel yourself in. you’ve got be a professional to step off, take a deep breath and get it done.
"It’s been a learning process for Wily because if you look at his inning and his runs, there’s a bulk of them, three, four, five innings, boom, it just explodes on him. And when he comes into the dugout and he sits down and he’s all worked up and we talk, it’s like you were so close to getting out of that, it just takes one pitch."
It took a while, but a corner was turned once the calendar flipped to July.
Over his final 15 starts, Peralta posted a 3.15 earned run average over 91 1/3 innings.
"He has real good stuff, he just needed to trust it," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "When he can do that, as long as he really trusts himself, I think he’s going to be a lot better. I think he’s had a nice, solid year. It’s some of the best stuff I’ve seen. When you’re throwing 96, 97 with movement downhill, that’s really good."
Opponents hit .230 against him and he went at least six innings nine times. In that stretch, he was touched up just twice – an eight-run (five earned) loss at Colorado and seven run loss to Cincinnati. He gave up four runs in five innings in a loss at Chicago.
In the other 12 starts Peralta allowed three runs or less, including a complete game shutout against Cincinnati.
Maldonado, who caught Peralta for the majority of his starts, noticed his pitcher maturing at a greater rate during the latter part of the season.
"That’s the thing I’ve been working on the whole season," Peralta said of his demeanor on the mound. "Early on, in that kind of situation I wasn’t able to get out of it and then after that I’ve been progressing and I’ve been pitching better. I have to settle down and make one pitch at a time."
"I’ve always been an emotional guy but I think I’ve been growing up as a pitcher. Everybody gets frustrated at times but veteran guys, when they get frustrated, they don’t try to do too much. They just keep it calm and try to make one pitch at a time. That’s one thing I’ve learned just watching those guys."
That growth wasn’t lost on Roenicke, either.
After a 5 1/3-inning, 76-pitch performance at Washington on July 2, he allowed Peralta to exceed 100 pitches seven times in his final 14 starts, letting him work out of early troubles that would’ve sent him to the bench just months before.
"It may last for a pitch and he gets back into it," Roenicke said. "I think that’s – we’re talking about the progression and development of a player – you see that emotionally, are they able to regroup. I don’t have any problem with a guy getting mad. It’s how fast can you let go of it? I think Wily’s getting better at it."
That confidence then emboldened Peralta to dig in and execute.
"It does give me more confidence in myself when they let me go," Peralta said. "Sometimes you’ve got to be in at the end of the first two, three inning and you’ve got 67 pitches and you’ve got to settle down, throw less pitches and not try to punch out everybody, just pitch to contact and get to the sixth inning."
Added Maldonado: "That’s big for him, for a young guy to go out there and perform and do good and give you a chance to win games. That means a lot."
Peralta reached a preseason goal by eclipsing the double-digit win barrier, winning 11 games against 15 losses.
But, on the whole, his season was average at best. In 32 starts he posted a 4.37 ERA and a 1.418 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched). He also posted a negative Wins Above Replacement (WAR) number of -1.1.
The last half of the season was encouraging, but the Brewers will need him to pitch to that level right at the start of the 2014 season.
Now that he learned how to keep his emotions in check and trusts that he can get major league hitters out, Peralta feels he’ll be able to do that.
"I’ve just learned how to pitch," he said. "Early in the season I was struggling with my command of my pitches. I learned that not every single outing you’re going to have your stuff and learned how to pitch when you don’t have your best. It’s something I tried to learn that every single time."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.