By Jeff Riger
I think it was safe to assume, when it was announced last week, that Jhonny Peralta would begin working out with the Tigers; that it was only a matter of time before the former shortstop would be back with the team for the last three games of the regular season, and maybe more.
On Monday, Jim Leyland informed the media that Peralta would be headed to Lakeland, Florida on Wednesday to take part in instructional league play where he will only play left field. “He’s going down basically to work out, see some live pitching, get some instruction on how to play left field and to play left field in the game down there,” Leyland said.
Peralta was never a threat to reclaim his old shortstop position, considering how good Jose Iglesias has been defensively, but Detroit has a true need in left field, so this plan makes perfect sense — at least on paper.
“This is just a thought process on Dave’s (Dombrowski) part Leyland said. “I think it’s a good thought process and I’m sure it would be a big deal for Jhonny to get back out there.”
As for the odds that Peralta could actually help the big club, Leyland has no idea. “I don’t know if you want to call it a long shot or you want to call it 50/50,” the skipper wondered out loud.
Of course fans have to wonder if Peralta could be trusted to play in left during the playoffs when he has never played the position at the Major League level.
So I asked Leyland exactly that …
“You’re basically asking me if he will be on the playoff roster if we make it and I have no idea. That’s why I don’t want to get carried away with it,” Leyland yelled.
The one thing that the manager seems rather sure about is that Peralta will join the Tigers when they play their last series of the season in Miami on September 27-29.
But what about Peralta’s bat? The whole reason Peralta is learning how to play left is because he has the type of pop in his bat to help this team toward the bottom of the batting order.
If he can’t hit, then this whole experiment is useless!
“I think 50 games is a long time to be off,” Leyland said. “Now the early signs are more than positive but we’re talking about coaches BP. He’s swinging the bat really, really well in coaches BP. Once again I emphasize coaches BP, but that’s a lot of games to miss.”
Leyland does have a theory as to how Peralta would do at the plate if given the opportunity.
“What happens with guys like this a lot of times is that they come back really good, right off the bat and then it catches up with them that they haven’t played for a while. I don’t know why that seems to happen, but he’s sure swinging the bat really good right now. The other day in Chicago he looked like he hasn’t miss a beat, you know … I’m talking about batting practice,” Leyland said.
Leyland also mentioned that Peralta is open to the idea of playing left field and that his willingness to make the transition is half the battle in this whole scenario.
So whether you want him back or not, the Tigers don’t care; nor should they.
Peralta’s presence, at least in theory, gives Detroit their best chance to win. Now we just have to see if theory turns into reality.