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ANGELS NOTEBOOK: PERALTA ENJOYING THE `SHOW'.

Byline: Gabe Lacques Staff Writer

BOSTON - Reliever Joel Peralta didn't even try concealing his giddiness as he passed a hat and jersey around the clubhouse recently for Angels teammates to autograph.

He had all the look of a star-struck fan, but the slight Peralta, at 29, is in fact a major-leaguer and still an Angel, perhaps soon an important Angel after surviving the cut when the club activated closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Few figured Peralta would be here longer than a few days, but after Peralta retired 13 of 15 batters he faced in two appearances, striking out six, the Angels decided to give him a longer look. He's used to long odds; Peralta figured his career was over at 25, when the converted infielder was shipped from Double-A all the way to low Single-A Cedar Rapids (Iowa).

Informed this spring he had a chance to make the major-league club, Peralta admitted he ``tried to do too much,'' had a bad spring and landed back at Triple-A. But he righted himself at Salt Lake, saving seven of eight games, and almost has to pinch himself these days.

``It is a dream. For any player to have seven years in the minor leagues, and be here with Vladdy and all these guys, it's awesome,'' Peralta said after obtaining Guerrero's autograph. ``It's been really tough to get through the minor leagues. But here I am.''

When Peralta posted a 6.62 ERA at Double-A Arkansas in 2002, he pondered leaving the game when the Angels shipped him to Cedar Rapids. But his best friend from the Dominican Republic, Fausto Mejia, convinced him to keep going. It was Mejia who suggested he convert to pitching after the Oakland Athletics released him as an infielder.

``I felt then that I'm not going to make it,'' he said. ``My friends and family picked me up and said, 'You're going to make it.'''

Peralta's fastball doesn't get much past 90 mph, but with Esteban Yan struggling and ticketed for a longer relief role, the Angels will see if Peralta can handle the late innings. Staying within his ability is a good place to start.

``There's no such thing as stepping up and doing better than you're capable,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He's relaxed now, and he's confident now.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 3, 2005
Words:381
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