Usually an infielder and primarily a shortstop during his 10-plus seasons in the majors, Jhonny Peralta needs to find another position if he is to help the Detroit Tigers any more in 2013.
Recently returned from a 50-game PED suspension related to the Biogenesis investigation, Peralta is heading to the instructional league in Florida in order to learn how to play left field. The Tigers have a need there, unlike at shortstop, where Jose Iglesias is doing just fine.
The plan, manager Jim Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski say via Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, is for Peralta to play in Florida until the final weekend series of the regular season. Presumably, if all goes well, Peralta would get a look in left and give Leyland the option of playing him there in the postseason. The Tigers lead the AL Central by five games over the Cleveland Indians.
Peralta has been taking batting practice and working out with the Tigers since Wednesday, but he's not going to take time away from Miguel Cabrera at third (even though Cabrera could use the time off to heal up) and Iglesias is too good defensively at short to replace. Victor Martinez usually plays DH. No room there.
Leyland, though, was encouraged by what he saw upon Peralta's return:
Leyland on Peralta: "He sure is swinging the bat good. The other day in Chicago didn't look like he had missed a beat." Cautioned it was BP.
— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) September 16, 2013
But, Leyland adds, 50 games is a lot to miss. And two weeks isn't a lot of time to learn a new position.
Peralta has logged nearly 10,000 innings at short since breaking in with the Indians in 2003, but none in the outfield. Andy Dirks and Matt Tuiasosopo usually platoon in left, which has been a weak spot offensively and defensively when compared to Austin Jackson in center and Torii Hunter in right.
Peralta probably would be an adventure in the outfield, but theoretically he'd be a much better bat against lefties than Dirks or Tuiasosopo. None of them are ideal.
An All-Star in July as he was two seasons ago, Peralta was having one of his best seasons — .305/.361/.461 with 11 homers and 29 doubles 436 plate appearances — before his suspension. When it became apparent that he'd miss a big chunk of time, the Tigers traded for Iglesias and improved their defense almost immeasurably at short.
As for what happens to Peralta in left field, it's worth a shot, possibly. Dirks and Tuiasosopo aren't so good that they obviously should play instead, and Peralta couldn't be worse out there than Delmon Young ... by much. It also sets up a possible "atonement" narrative for Peralta, who — it could be said — let his team down by getting caught doing PEDs.