September 25th, 2013
Jhonny Peralta will be back in a Tiger uniform this weekend when his 50-game suspension ends for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. There’s a very real possibility he’ll be on Detroit’s postseason roster as well.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski made the first part official on Wednesday, saying that their displaced shortstop turned left-field candidate will be activated to the 40-man roster on Thursday, the day his suspension ends.
“He’s worked hard, eager to get back. The team has been receptive to him coming back, and we think it’s best for the ballclub to give him the opportunity,” Dombrowski said.
Peralta will return for Friday’s series opener at Miami as an option in left field. He could be an insurance option at shortstop if Jose Iglesias isn’t ready to return from his bruised left hand, but Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland both think Iglesias will be back at short on Friday.
The postseason question, Dombrowski cautioned, has yet to be decided. When asked how much Peralta has to show in left field over three regular-season games, Dombrowski offered a little bit of clarity on how they see Peralta’s situation as a potential playoff left fielder.
“I think we just have to have a comfort zone that he can perform out there,” Dombrowski said. “And even if he can’t perform out there as much as you’d like, does he still make you better going into the postseason with him on your roster, depending on how everything shapes up? And those are not discussions for today. Those are discussions for another today, because we haven’t even reached that point as of yet.”
Peralta will have to be added to the 40-man roster. To make room, the Tigers will place infielder Danny Worth on the 60-day disabled list. Worth’s season ended earlier this month with a dislocated left shoulder.
When Jim Leyland was asked last night about Bruce Rondon’s performance in his first outing in three weeks, he answered with a measure of trepidation. He wanted to wait to see how Rondon felt today before allowing himself to feel really encouraged.
This is why.
“Not good,” Leyland said today when asked how Rondon is feeling.
UPDATE: Leyland didn’t have anything else on it, but head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said later that it’s elbow discomfort in the same area he had it a few weeks ago.
“He came in today with some complaints of discomfort in his elbow, similar to what he had in Boston,” Rand said. “It’s hard to determine at this point if it’s to that point, so we’re just going to treat him today, try to get it quieted down and re-evaluate it. …
“The question is: Is it just [out of] going back out there again, getting back up and throwing at 100 percent? Is it that, or is it more than that? We have to obviously err on the side of caution and treat him today with an off-day tomorrow and just kind of re-evaluate it.”
Rand did not give a timetable, and he wouldn’t say it’s day-to-day. He did not, however, use the same outlook as Leyland.
“I would say Jim said not good because he doesn’t have him available tonight,” Rand said. “It’s never good when I walk in [to his office] and tell him you haven’t got that guy for tonight.”
Whatever the issue is — he missed three weeks with a tender elbow — he’s not available tonight. Neither is Al Alburquerque (four outings last five days), and Leyland would like to avoid using closer Joaquin Benoit. So it could be an interesting night as the Tigers attempt to clinch the AL Central, depending on how far Max Scherzer pitches into tonight’s game.
For the second time in six weeks, Joaquin Benoit delivered eight outs over two nights. Except for one fastball over the plate that Brian Dozier jumped Monday night, he would’ve gotten back-to-back saves out of it.
That kind of workload is something Leyland rarely does with Benoit until the postseason. He did it once last year, and that was during a busy June that set up his spat of home runs around midseason. Expect him to be called upon for a four- or five-out save at some point in the playoffs if the Tigers make another run, because of how much pressure rests on each game.
Benoit knows it, and he knows he needs to be able to do it. As much as he wanted to be out there Tuesday after the blown save on Monday and give the team some reassurance, he knew it would be a test for him.
“It was really challenging for me coming back — 1 2/3 yesterday, coming back and throwing one inning today,” Benoit said. “It was good.”
He wasn’t the only one reassuring. Bruce Rondon returned to the Tigers bullpen after three weeks working back from a tender elbow, promptly entered a big game in the eighth inning, and had to show what he has at this point. The 101 mph fastball is still there. The slider, a pitch that puts stress on the elbow, might have looked better than ever.
Even he wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but he couldn’t have been happier with the results: 10 pitches, 3 strikeouts.
Rondon said he felt “a little bit weird, a little bit tight” on his first few pitches before he settled in. He also felt somewhat scared about throwing his slider because of the elbow — until he saw the results.
He’s not going to replace Jose Veras in the eighth inning, no matter how much frustration fans might have over the results lately. But if he’s back as an option, whether for a batter or an inning, he has the chance to be a major factor in the postseason. For him, too, Tuesday was a test.
“I wanted to see if he threw it over the plate or around the plate,” Leyland said. “The only thing I was concerned about was the control because he hadn’t pitched in so long, but it set up just right for him, the lineup did, because you had three right-handers in a row there. So we couldn’t ask for anything better.
“If we don’t get [him] through it there, then we don’t get through it. But I was impressed with the fact that he threw the ball over the plate and around the plate, and he got them speeding the bat up to catch up with the fastball and the slider was very effective.”