September 11th, 2013
Jhonny Peralta returned to the Tigers on Wednesday to begin working out on the field for the first time since his suspension began six weeks ago. He also began working out some of the lingering questions that he couldn’t, or didn’t, answer while Major League Baseball’s investigation into his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
He apologized again for the mistake he made getting involved with performance-enhancing drugs before Spring Training in 2012. In so doing, he hoped for some understanding, though he wisely hesitated to use the word forgiveness.
“I think I say what I say before. I apologize to everybody,” he said. “I think everybody understands. We make mistakes sometimes. We’re human. It’s happened to a lot of people.”
He also admitted times over the past month and a half that he was angry about his decision. He’s still angry now.
“Right now, what happened before, I’m angry with myself,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it, the situation that happened, but I’m kind of mad at myself.”
Asked how much the investigation weighed on his mind as the season unfolded, he offered a little insight into why he only took baseball questions for the most part when interviewed all summer. More than fear of saying something that would come back to haunt him, he was trying to block it out.
“That was kind of tough,” he said, “but I tried to be positive every day in the field, tried to show up for the guys and my team. I tried to win the game every day. I tried to [be around] the guys like nothing happened. I mean, it’s kind of hard for me, but I tried to stay concentrated on the game every day, day by day. I think I did pretty good, how I played the game.”
More from Peralta …
- If he’s nervous about teammates’ reaction: “No. I know every guy on the team. I know the first step that I make into the clubhouse, I know they’re going to be happy. Every guy in the clubhouse, they’re really friendly. I think when we’re together, we’re like brothers, so I know they’re going to be happy.”
- On how he’ll be received by Tigers fans: “I think the Tigers fans, they know what’s going on. They already know what happened with everything. I think for what I do in Detroit, I think the fans are going to be OK. I think they apprciated what I did before and everything and tried to back the team. I think the fans in Detroit will be the fans.”
- On what he did after the suspension: “I think I take like a week in Cleveland. After that I go back to the Dominican and tried to work out every day. I know in the Dominican I can have time to work out every day.”
- On getting over feelings of regret: “It’s already happened, whatever happened. I tried to forget about the past. I tried to move forward now. I know it’s a little hard, what happened before, but I tried to be positive to try to enjoy the game when I come back here.”
As expected, Jhonny Peralta was a very early arrival to U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday to begin working out with the Tigers again. The surprise was more where he was working out. That’s him taking fly balls in left field under the watch of manager Jim Leyland and coach Tom Brookens.
Not sure how much the Tigers will talk about this today, but with offense clearly a recent issue against lefties, and left field being one position they can upgrade, it’s clearly something they can consider.
As we wait to see what Jhonny Peralta has to say at U.S. Cellular Field this afternoon, both to his Tigers teammates and to the media, it’s worth noting that Peralta has made one major change heading into free agency: His agents. He’s the latest client of ACES to change his representation, hiring Diego Bentz of SFX. It’s believed the change was made in the last month or so after Peralta was suspended.
ACES, headed up by Sam and Seth Levinson, negotiated Peralta’s current deal with the Tigers before the 2011 season. But the agency has also been heavily mixed in with the Biogenesis investigation, having had several clients involved, including Nelson Cruz (who has also changed agents) and Jordany Valdespin. Juan Carlos Nunez, a central figure in the investigation, was a contractor paid as a consultant of ACES at one time.
Bentz represents another Tigers infielder and former ACES client, Ramon Santiago.
UPDATE: ACES forwarded a statement on Peralta’s move, which included a reason given on the move:
“ACES takes great pride in standing by our players during difficult times in their lives. Thankfully, the darkest chapter in Jhonny’s professional career has concluded. We wish him the best in all that he does moving forward, and fully understand that Jhonny is more comfortable with a Latin agent. ACES is proud to represent great players who are quality people for over three decades and we will continue to defend and assert our players’ rights under the rules of the game.”
The MLB Players Association investigated ACES last year, according to USA Today. The agency was reprimanded, but the investigation found no evidence linking the agents to Biogenesis.
Dave Dombrowski’s announcement that Jhonny Peralta is rejoining the team to work out and take batting practice before the gates open went over relatively easy. He budgeted 15 minutes to talk with the team about the decision, but needed only a few. He spent more time talking with reporters about the limited reaction from the players.
“Quiet, not much said,” Dombrowski said of the reaction. “They paid attention. They were intent. And I think they’re interested, but really it’s just pretty much they listened.”
The decision looming over all of this, the one whether to put Peralta back on the active roster for the end of the regular season and the postseason, is going to take a lot longer to decide. It’s going to draw much more scrutiny all around, let alone within the clubhouse.
As Dombrowski talked about this first step, he was unusually open talking about the decision process that will go into the last step. He could’ve said that was a discussion for another time. He did not.
“Really, you are under some obligation to try to give him the opportunity to come back, because it’s a negotiated settlement — a 50-day suspension — that the commissioner’s office and the players’ association agreed upon,” Dombrowski said. “Are you told that you have to? No, but you’re also told that there’s some obligation. I think really where we fall at this time is that, too.
“You pay the punishment, you pay the price, which he has, then you sit back. We can see how he is. How does he react? Can he swing the bat? How is he moving around? Do we think he gives us a chance to be better at some point? We’re trying to win a championship. That factors into there, too. All those are considerations.”
At one point early on, Dombrowski used the term “baseball decision” to describe the choice whether to activate him. Those two words, as much as anything, might set up the process.
He’s a now-deposed shortstop with a run production kind of bat, and he’ll have a very limited amount of activity for the Tigers to evaluate. It not only will be limited time, but limited activity, basically just pregame workout and instructional league games.
The good news about those games is that they can set him up for as many at-bats as he wants in a day. The bad news is the level of competition.
The other point he made is who factors into the decision.
“It’s my decision, really,” he said. “Not that I may not ask a player or two different opinions and discuss it with staff, but it really ends up being my decision, mine and Mr. Ilitch’s.
“It’s one of those things I see both angles. I see the angle where it’s really talking about the same stuff we did before. People feel like you’ve been betrayed, you’ve been hurt, you’ve been all those things. And then you’ve also got the other end of it where you’ve paid your price, you’ve paid your dues. I’m really not the judge and jury beyond the 50-game suspension. That’s really been determined by the players association and the commissioner’s office. And I think more and more players fall upon that. Now that’s not to say that they may not want more severe punishment in the future, but for now that’s really what’s been decided, and it’s up to us to analyze.
“We could end up playing against somebody in the postseason that has somebody that’s been suspended and ends up playing against us. I think you have to weigh what you think is best for your club at the time.”
It’s no longer a question whether Peralta is good enough to get his old job back at shortstop. As Dombrowski made clear, the Tigers have their everyday shortstop now in Jose Iglesias. So while the Tigers try to get Peralta back into baseball shape and judge his readiness, they also have to judge his utility.
His Major League experience is at shortstop at third. Dombrowski laid open the possibility that he could take ground balls at second in batting practice, but wasn’t sure about that. He mentioned fly balls, but didn’t mention outfield along with that.
“I guess I could envision anything,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t really have a specific plan, really, beyond what I’ve described here.”