August 5th, 2013

Peralta suspended 50 games, won’t appeal (updated)

The fallout from Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis investigation that began in Miami and dominated headlines in New York finally hit Detroit and the American League Central race on Monday. In the process, it put Jhonny Peralta’s season — and his future as a Tiger — into serious question.

MLB announced Monday a 50-game suspension for Peralta for his reported involvement in the Biogenesis scandal that included at least a dozen others. Peralta has agreed not to appeal the suspension and will begin serving it tonight. His All-Star season, including a .305 average, 29 doubles, 11 home runs and 54 RBIs, is on hold.

“We recognize the suspension of Jhonny Peralta for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as a measure taken in the best interest of the game,” the Tigers said in a statement. “The Detroit Tigers continue to fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from our game. Per the protocol outlined by Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, the Tigers’ organization will provide no further comment on Peralta’s suspension.”

By not appealing the suspension, Peralta will complete it with three games to go in the regular season — in time for their season-ending series at the Marlins Sept. 27-29 — and be eligible for the postseason roster. Whether the Tigers front office or its players want him back, or whether Peralta has played his final game in a Detroit uniform, will be a question that follows the Tigers in the coming weeks.

For now, Monday’s announcement culminates a season of intrigue for Peralta that began with a Sports Illustrated report in early February that his name appeared in records from Biogenesis, the clinic in Miami accused of supplying human growth hormone and other substances to several players. No substances were reportedly listed alongside Peralta’s name in the records, and the Miami New Times omitted his name from its initial report on the clinic and its records. Peralta had worked out in South Florida at times over the past couple years, and he was planning on making his offseason home there, but little more was known.

Peralta cleared up some of the mystery in a statement released by the team minutes after the announcement.

“In spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret,” the statement read. “I apologize to everyone that I have hurt as a result of my mistake, including my teammates, the Tigers organization, the great fans in Detroit, Major League Baseball and my family. I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension.

“I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down. I promise to do everything possible to try and earn back the respect that I have lost.”

That was a vast difference from the statement he issued through his attorney, Barry Boss, just before Spring Training.

“I have never used performance-enhancing drugs. Period,” the statement read. “Anybody who says otherwise is lying.”

That left Peralta as a mystery figure as the investigation and ensuing stories continued. Peralta in February declined comment aside from a statement issued just before Spring Training from his attorney, Barry Boss.

“I have never used performance-enhancing drugs. Period,” the statement read. “Anybody who says otherwise is lying.”

The 50-game suspension for Peralta fits that of a first-time offender under the Major League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. A positive test is not required for suspension under terms of the program negotiated between MLB and the Players Association.

Peralta becomes the second Tigers player on the Major League roster to be suspended under the program. Infielder Neifi Perez was suspended twice in 2007 for banned stimulants — once for 25 games, then for 80 games.

Former Tigers minor-league pitcher Cesar Carrillo, a journeyman signed into the organization in 2012, was the first player disciplined out of the investigation, receiving a 100-game suspension in March. That suspension ended last week, at which point the Tigers released him.

Leyland on Smyly vs. Konerko

Drew Smyly owns two saves this season through the three-inning rule: If you pitch the final three innings in relief in a victory, you earn a save, no matter what the margin. He hadn’t entered to finish out a one-run lead before, but with Joaquin Benoit off on Sunday, Smyly got the chance to stay in for the ninth after striking out Adam Dunn to end the eighth with the potential tying run on third base.

Konerko, a right-handed hitter was 4-for-6 for career off Smyly, all singles. He also entered Sunday batting .317 (20-for-63) off left-handed pitching with four doubles, three homers, nine walks and 10 RBIs. Yet he had been slumping badly for the entire series, to the point that Leyland was more worried about Conor Gillaspie, the left-handed hitting rookie behind him who had two solo homers off Tigers pitching this season.

So Leyland took a shot and kept Smyly in, with right-hander Jose Veras warming in the bullpen. Konerko was 0-for-2 off Veras, but with two walks, both this year.

“Obviously I know Konerko was 4-for-6 off of [Smyly],” Leyland said afterwards, “but he had no extra-base hits, and Gillaspie’s hurt us with a couple long balls. I wanted to be in a situation where if they wanted to leave him in to hit, I’d have the left-hander. I didn’t think it was impossible for Konerko to get a hit obviously, but I thought he’d keep him in the ballpark, which he didn’t do. So then as they changed their lineup, you’ve got Gillaspie and [Jordan] Danks, two lefties back to back, so you’re hoping to get that first out.”

Clearly, it backfired. Smyly felt like he made his pitch, but Konerko got it.

“It was an 0-1 fastball down and away,” Smyly said. “I looked at it on video. Couldn’t be in a better spot, but he turned it around. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s why he’s such a great hitter. Cap call to him.”