Shortstop resumes workouts in first public appearance since 50-game suspension
CHICAGO -- Shortstop Jhonny Peralta returned to the Tigers for workouts only on Wednesday with a familiarity that almost felt like he hadn't left for more than a few days, let alone a month and a half. At the same time, the sense of uncertainty was obvious that he doesn't know what will happen over the coming weeks and into October.
He apologized again for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal that led to his 50-game suspension, yet, Peralta realizes he can't possibly go back to his old situation. He's no longer the shortstop, and he may have played his last game with the Tigers.
The suspension ends just before the final regular-season series, which is in Miami on Sept. 27-29.
"I understand the situation," Peralta said. "[Jose] Iglesias is a really good player. He's settled to be the shortstop every day. I'm here to help the team in whatever position I can. It's good to be here, and I'll try to enjoy the game. Whatever decision [team president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] makes, I'll be here."
Peralta made his first public appearance since his decision to accept the suspension. He opened up slightly about the situation in a way he did not as Major League Baseball's investigation was unfolding over the summer and was taking only baseball questions.
Peralta acknowledged the mistake he made getting involved in the first place, and in releasing a statement about his innocence in the spring. He turned back to the apology released on his behalf last month admitting his involvement.
"I think, I say what I said before. I apologize to everybody," Peralta said. "I think everybody understands we make mistakes sometimes. We're human. It's happened to a lot of people."
That said, Peralta also blamed himself for getting into the situation.
"What happened before, I'm angry with myself," he said. "I don't know how to explain it, the situation that happened, but I'm kind of mad at myself."
When asked how it took him to get over feelings of regret, Peralta made it clear he's trying to move on.
"It's already happened. I try to forget about the past," he said. "I try to move forward now. I know it's a little hard [with] what happened before, but I try to be positive, try to enjoy the game when I come back here."
Asked about working past the long-term damage to his career, especially as a free agent his fall, Peralta said he was taking a short-term approach. For now, he can work out with the Tigers until the gates open, and he can watch the game from the clubhouse.
"I take it day by day, a day at a time," Peralta said. "I know it's a little tough, but I tried to forget about what happened."
For the first week of the suspension, Peralta said, he stayed at his home in Cleveland, a place he has kept since his days with the Indians. After that, he returned to his native Dominican Republic to work out and try to stay in shape for when his suspension ends.
"I know in the Dominican, I can have time to work out every day," Peralta said.
Physically, he looked like he had stayed relatively close to playing shape. Peralta reported to U.S. Cellular Field early Wednesday afternoon, ahead of most of his teammates, took batting practice, then fielded fly balls in left field hit by infield coach Rafael Belliard as manager Jim Leyland and outfield coach Tom Brookens looked on.
The outfield work is an attempt on the Tigers' part to figure out how versatile Peralta can be in a reserve. His Major League fielding experience is entirely at shortstop and third base, but Detroit is set at both spots.
At the same time, the Tigers could use a productive right-handed bat, the kind Peralta provided for four months even as MLB's investigation hung over him.
"I feel the swing is already there," Peralta said. "And when I was in the Dominican, I took batting practice a couple times and felt really good. The swing is right there. So whenever I can be in a game, I think it's going to be OK."
When that is, and whether it's in a Tigers uniform, is unclear. Dombrowski said he has yet to make a decision on whether Peralta will be welcomed back on the roster when his suspension ends.
Dombrowski was at Peralta's side throughout his media session, which lasted just under 10 minutes, but did not speak. Dombrowski spoke with reporters on Tuesday when he announced the decision to have Peralta back with the team to work out.
Whether Peralta would be welcomed back was a separate question. Peralta's reception on Wednesday seemed to go well. He sat at a table chatting with teammates after his workout, and he talked with others individually.
"Glad to have him back," Torii Hunter said. "People don't understand. You've got to get to know the person. He's a great personality, a great person. He cares about people. I love him. He's awesome. We all make mistakes. He made a mistake.
"It's just like if your mama tells you to finish your food and you don't finish it and the punishment is, because you didn't finish your food, go to your room, you stay in there until they feel like it's time to come out. Then, when you come out, all is forgiven. All is forgiven. This is crazy that we can't forgive. You've got to forgive. If you can't forgive then all of us are guilty because everybody has something they've done that was wrong. So, I forgive him."
Said Peralta: "I know every guy on the team. The first step that I make into the clubhouse, I know they're going to be happy. Every guy in the clubhouse, they're really friendly. I think when we're together, we're like brothers, so, I know they're going to be happy."
For now, his reception from fans is a non-issue, because Peralta cannot be on the field when the gates open. If he plays another game at Comerica Park this season, it would have to be in the postseason.
"I think the Tigers fans, they know what's going on," Peralta said. "They already know what happened with everything. I think for what I do in Detroit, I think the fans are going to be OK. I think they appreciated what I did before and everything and tried to back the team. I think the fans in Detroit will be the fans."