With division clinched, this weekend is about Peralta

Dave Dombrowski knew quite a bit about the history of the Tigers franchise before he took over as president and general manager. He knows all about Mickey Stanley’s move from center field to shortstop for the 1968 World Series and how his ability to handle the move made a huge difference.

Dombrowski also knows first-hand how Carlos Guillen took to moving from shortstop to third base to left field in the span of two years, and how the moves ate at him near the end of his Tigers tenure.

Jhonny Peralta’s tryout in left falls somewhere in between. It’s more of a temporary shift like Stanley than a long-term move like Guillen, but it’s also the product of a player who has lost his full-time job at shortstop — and probably his chance at sticking around in Detroit this offseason. If this is his closing stretch as a Tiger, he’s going to have to make the move if he’s going to make an impact.

The reports have been positive, but they’ve been based on days of work. Even Guillen had a Spring Training to work out in left when he moved. Even if it’s not much judgment, they’re going to have at least gauge Peralta’s work — in the outfield and at the plate — this weekend, starting with Friday’s series opener against the Marlins.

Dombrowski is willing to give it a look. The reason is obvious.

“I think he gives us a bump,” Dombrowski said Wednesday in Minnesota. “I can’t say how much, but he gives us another quality Major League player that we can put into our lineup. I’m not going to say how he’s going to be used, because that’s not my call. That’s Jim’s call. But it gives us another available player that can swing the bat and has hit very well for us in the six spot. …

“He gives us a guy that we think can play left field, at least some, and give us another good bat.”

If nothing else, that bat could be useful off the bench. He’s 4-for-15 for his career as a pinch-hitter, but 1-for-8 with two walks pinch-hitting since 2011. That one hit was a game-tying two-run homer at Minnesota on May 11, 2011, a game the Tigers went on to win.

If they want anything more out of him, though, he needs a spot to play, which is what led Dombrowski to look at left field.

“You just think of different things,” he said. “I can’t tell you that somebody else didn’t think about it and they didn’t say it to me, but I just brought it up. But at the time, you’re just thinking of ways to make your club the best you possibly can, and if you’re looking at a way to try to get him in your lineup, it wouldn’t take a lot to say, ‘OK, let’s try to get him in our lineup. Where could he play?’ Well, there’s only one place, the way our team shapes up. The reality of it is, it’s left field.

“That was really the only spot, so we just kind of threw it out there and took it from there.”

Left field is the one spot where the Tigers aren’t set with an everyday starter. It’s also the one spot where the Tigers have still been trying to get more offense, especially from the right side, where Matt Tuiasosopo is 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts in September.

The prevailing thought is that a shortstop can play most anywhere else around the infield or the outfield. The question is how much preparation time it takes, and what are the expectations.

“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?”

You don’t go into a short-term move like this if defense is a major concern. It’s about the bat.

Whether it’s the same reason the Tigers are welcoming him back at all is up for discussion. By rule, Peralta has served his 50-game discipline for his involvement in the Biogenesis and is free to play. The chance to complete the suspension with time left in the season, including the playoffs, was one reason for Peralta not to appeal the suspension in the first place.

“That’s why sometimes you need to digest things and sit back, not make immediate decisions,” Dombrowski said. “We look at it if he can make our club better, it’ll be spot where we’re open to that. He’s been with us a long time. He made a one-time mistake and he served his penalty.”

From a practical standpoint, though, he’s a hitter trying to come back from 50 games off. His instructional league debut pitted him against Washington Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiler earlier this week, so he was able to see some Major League competition during his abbreviated minor-league stint. But he didn’t get many at-bats beyond that thanks to rain in Florida, which left a small amount of preparation for what will be a similarly small sample size of games before the Tigers have to decide on their postseason roster.

Take away the reasons behind the suspension, and there remains a practical matter the Tigers have to weigh.

“We had a guy on the disabled list for a couple months. Really, that’s what it’s kind of comparable to,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a smart hitter. He’s got a pulse of it. But I don’t really know the answer.”

They have a few days to try to determine that. It sure takes some of the humdrum atmosphere out of three post-clinching games.

13 Comments

Other than playing Dirks full time, even a not quite ready Peralta is an offensive upgrade over the alternative in the lineup. Tuiasosopo has never been a home run hitter, but has been called upon to be one ever since he ran into a few in spring training and very early in the season. Not surprising that his swing became too long as he tried to hit the long ball.
One Peralta-related option that I haven’t seen mentioned is having him DH while Victor catches, at least some of the time. No square peg in a round hole when doing that.

Jhonny seems like a nice guy. The players reportedly like him. He made a mistake. He paid the price. With Miggy and Iggy hurting, he is a good back-up option.

It would seem like he would do his best considering that if he wants to stay in baseball, a good showing would help him wherever he ends up in 2014.

Peralta will be a 3b, perhaps as early as next season. If Martinez catches this postseason, he would best be paired with Scherzer or Fister.
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truly wondering who is the better LF defensively, Peralta or Delmon Young 2011. Tigers were willing to exchange Young’s defensive shortcomings for his offensive production.

Peralta has worked his butt off to be a tiger and to be a better player than he was for cleveland, i hope he does well this postseason and in the future wherever that may be.

As woody pointed out, Peralta is probably already no worse of an OF than Delmon Young. The only play I worry about is if he has to try to make a play right at the wall. That is a play that you don’t tend to master without experience. But how often does it happen?

Yes, he deserves the start but would it not be wise to throw Porcello in relief against the Marlins? They could move the rotation up because of the off day or start Alvarez.

excellent thought. I think so.

With 4 off days between the regular season on the ALDS, Porcello can start and be more than fresh for Game 1 vs the A’s

I like how management isn’t mentioning the elephant in the room: Iggy and Miggy are hurt and probably shouldn’t play this series (Peralta has played both of those positions).
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Santiago needs a rest – badly. Miggy shouldn’t play this series but to maybe pinch hit a few times. Iggy could start a game or two (i.e. see live pitching) but should get lifted late in the games and they should switch Peralta to SS at those times.
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How many days off between ALDS and RS?

4 – 1st game is next Friday.

I think Iggy needs some ABs this weekend, #IF# he is healthy.

Iglesias is going to need some time at shortstop to get back up to speed. Otherwise, he’d go two weeks from his last start to Game 1 of the Division Series.

Jason, is there any indication that the team will be facing live pitching during the 4 days between RegS and PostS?

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