By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – With flashy plays, overall solid defense and lightning speed, 23-year-old Jose Iglesias almost made Detroit Tigers fans forget all about suspended shortstop Jhonny Peralta, at least in the field.
With a bat in his hands, though, Peralta still holds an advantage, and the Tigers plan to use Peralta at the plate whenever they can. In game three of the ALDS, Peralta will hit sixth in the lineup and will play left field, a position he had never played before working at it in Detroit’s instructional league during his suspension. He played left field for the first time in the majors in the Tigers’ final series of the season in Miami.
He did not prove much as far as his ability in left field, but his bat looked like he never left the big leagues.
“I thought he swung the bat pretty good in Miami, but obviously [we’re] putting him in there today to try to get a little offensive punch in our lineup,” Leyland said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.”
Peralta’s inexperience in the outfield has been troubling to some, but as the Tigers’ 1-0 loss to Oakland on Saturday proved, Detroit needs the offense, and if it has to sacrifice defense to get some, well, that is what the team will do.
“We’re playing Jhonny Peralta today to get some offense,” Leyland said. “If you do that, you’re willing to live with what could happen defensively. You just don’t know. I think he’ll be fine. Jhonny Peralta can certainly catch a fly ball. He’s got a good arm, got good hands, but it’s a little uncharted waters for him, so we’ll just, like I say, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin, while he said he does not know how rusty Peralta might be, given his limited at bats back in the majors since his suspension, said that having Peralta in the lineup does change the A’s approach to an extent.
“It’s not like when [left fielder Andy] Dirks is in there, or Donnie Kelly, swung the bat okay the other day,” Melvin said. “Peralta is a guy that can hit the ball out of the ball park, so you have to be a little bit more careful with where you make your pitches to him.
“He was a significant contributor to their lineup over the course of the season and a guy that can hit the ball out of the ball park,” Melvin added, “so I’m sure they feel like it makes them stronger.”
While Iglesias certainly holds an edge in the infield, Leyland said the Tigers have considered playing Peralta at shortstop when they want to get his bat in the lineup.
“That would be an option during the course of the game,” Leyland said. “A situation where we pinch hit, we could bring Jhonny Peralta in at shortstop. That would be an option. We made several lineups out prior to the playoffs. There was a lineup or so with him at shortstop, depending on how the series goes. We haven’t – certainly we’re not playing him at shortstop today, so we’ll have to wait and see.”