Peralta makes return from suspension in left field
In first Major League game since Aug. 4, shortstop plays outfield for first time in career
MIAMI -- Jhonny Peralta returned to the Major Leagues on Friday from a 50-game suspension with more of a to-do about where he was going than what he was coming back from. It wasn't a development out of left field, so to speak, but his move to left field still was something to follow.
His first game in the Majors since Aug. 4 was his first game in the outfield at any level, and he wasn't promising anything.
"I'm not nervous. I'm excited," Peralta said before the game. "I'm excited to be in the field. I'll try to do the best I can."
The results were mixed, but it wasn't something manager Jim Leyland was going to gripe about on the first night.
"He did fine," Leyland said after the Tigers' 3-2 loss to the Marlins. "And you might as well make your mind: If you play Jhonny Peralta in left field, you're saying that you are willing to accept what you get. He's not going to be Andy Dirks or Donnie Kelly -- that fast. You're either willing to accept what you get, which is obviously trying to get a hitter if you go that way. He did fine."
Peralta's first real pursuit on a ball wasn't a fly ball, but a bases-clearing double into the corner from Giancarlo Stanton. He took a long route to the ball, circling to close in on it, leaving him no chance to throw out Christian Yelich at the plate.
"I played deep tonight," Peralta said. "That's what [the coaches] said to me. They say you need to play deep for guys like Stanton. I think he hit it perfect, close to the line. There's nothing I can do right there."
Stanton's next at-bat gave Peralta a ball to play, a shallow fly ball that Peralta -- again playing deep -- ran down.
That was Peralta's only putout on the night, but he made a run at Juan Pierre's fly ball into the gap in the seventh inning. So did center fielder Austin Jackson, which nearly resulted in a collision.
"He called the ball late," Peralta said. "It was really close. He said to me he tries to go for everything."
Peralta will get a couple more tries at it. Leyland said before the game that Peralta will play at least part of all three games against Miami in left. He likely won't start all three games, since Leyland wants to keep Dirks fresh as well.
Regardless, it's expected to be more time than he had in his rain-shortened instructional league stint earlier this week in Lakeland, Fla. The Tigers are hoping it's enough to judge how effective he can be out there.
Still, the majority opinion in the clubhouse, from Leyland to coaches to former Marlins left fielder Miguel Cabrera, is that it's not nearly as hard for an infielder -- especially a shortstop -- to move to the outfield than the other way around.
"It's maybe going to be a test, to see how I look in the outfield," Peralta said beforehand, "and to see how I look in the swing, too, in my at-bats."
Peralta contributed right away, hitting an RBI double on a 1-for-4 night.
"The swing, I've got the contact," he said. "In instructional league, I faced a couple pitchers and I got good contact with the ball. I mean, the time that I take off, it's not the same, but I tried to practice hard every day, tried to take a lot of BP."
As for his reception from players, it seemed positive. He settled into the visiting clubhouse at Marlins Park and looked like he hadn't left.
"You can see his smile," Cabrera said. "Peralta, that's my teammate. He's my friend, too. I'm very excited, very happy for him, to have him back in the lineup. We've got a new left fielder."