By Ashley Dunkak
The Detroit Tigers playoff roster has yet to be officially finalized, but from manager Jim Leyland’s comments to 97.1 The Ticket, it sounds like shortstop-turned-left fielder Jhonny Peralta is a lock.
After serving a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s rules against using performance-enhancing drugs, Peralta rejoined the Tigers for their final series of the season, now at a new position, and his bat looked as good as always.
Leyland would not commit to starting Peralta in the playoffs, but it certainly sounds like one of the regular left fielders – Matt Tuiasosopo or Andy Dirks – will be out in favor of Peralta.
“I’m not exactly sure about who’s going to start,” Leyland said. “This is one of those situations where you’re going to sacrifice defense and hope that you get the offense. That’s what you’re doing. If you’re not willing to accept that, then you shouldn’t do it. He’s not going to be a Gold Glove left fielder in two or three days. That’s just not the way it’s going to work, so you just have to be willing to accept what could happen. There could be a tough play in left field that one of your normal outfielders would have made that he doesn’t make, but he might hit a three-run homer, so you’re giving up something to get something.”
Offense could be especially important considering the Tigers face the Oakland A’s in their first playoff series. In the most recent series between the two teams, a four-game series at Comerica Park at the end of August, Oakland won three of the four games. The A’s scored eight runs the first game, six in the second game, 14 in the third game and six in the fourth game.
Armed with one of the best starting pitching rotations in the American League, the Tigers could not help but be a bit skeptical of the way Oakland picked apart their pitching. They even checked out film to see what was going on.
While Leyland stops short of accusing the A’s of cheating in any way, he certainly wanted to double-check and make sure to eliminate any clues Oakland might be using.
“We were just suspicious,” Leyland said. “We weren’t blaming anybody. We’re still not sure. We’re still not sure. We looked at films, we looked at things to see if we were tipping anything, whether the infielders were moving too quick or the catcher moving to a different spot or something like that. We didn’t really find anything, and we’re certainly not accusing them. That’s pretty strange, with our pitching staff, the way they wore them out. They wore us out pretty good, so you just want to make sure you cover all your tracks.”
The Tigers start the series in Oakland. They play two games there, Friday and Saturday, and return to Detroit for games Monday and Tuesday.