By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Alex Avila hopes Detroit Tigers fans forgive Jhonny Peralta.
After serving a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s policy prohibiting the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Peralta returned for the final season of the series. He got three hits across three games against the Miami Marlins, every one of which the Tigers lost as they rested many of their regulars.
Despite the sour note of ending the regular season by getting swept, the Tigers have hope for what is ahead. Particularly with superstar slugger Miguel Cabrera at less than full strength because of a lingering abdominal and groin injury, having the bat of Peralta, who hit .303 for the season, could be huge for Detroit.
As important as Peralta’s value on the field is the fact that his teammates still value him away from the field.
“It’s like he never left,” Avila said. “Every one of us likes Jhonny. He’s a really good person. He obviously made a mistake, and we all understand that. He paid his price, and luckily it didn’t affect us as much as I think a lot of people thought it would, but at the same time, he could really help us. It was like he never left. All of us really like him and got to know him pretty well.
“We’re obviously upset about what happened,” Avila added, “but at the same time, life’s too short to hold grudges. He’s a good person and a good friend of mine, so we were happy to have him back.”
As the Biogenesis suspensions loomed, the Tigers traded away top prospect Avisail Garcia for hotshot shortstop Jose Iglesias to replace Peralta in the infield. Iglesias, who recently suffered an injury when he took a fastball to the hand, has been so good defensively that Detroit had to think fast to find a spot for him. It looks like that new position will be left field.
Apart from conversation about whether the Tigers should take Peralta back after his indiscretion, many worried he might not be as effective after 50 games away from Major League pitching. Avila said that idea never concerned him.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big of an issue for him,” Avila said. “He’s just a good hitter. He’s been a good hitter his whole career and knowing him, I’m sure he was taking batting practice and hitting as much as he could and stuff like that. It wouldn’t have taken long to kind of get back in the swing of things. Guys like him, used to playing baseball year round, growing up playing baseball, that kind of stuff doesn’t really leave you.”
Avila said he has no idea what reaction Peralta’s return to Comerica Park will elicit from fans, but he hopes it will be a favorable one.
“He made a mistake, he’s got to live with that now, for the rest of his career, the rest of his life, but at the same time, we all like him as a person and forgive him for what he did, but that’s for the fans to decide what as far as if they want to forgive him or not,” Avila said, “but I hope they do because he’s been big for our team.”