CLEVELAND (AP) — There was nothing Jhonny Peralta could do but apologize. The damage was done.
Peralta is gone for the playoff chase, leaving a sizable hole for the Detroit Tigers, who have no choice but to move forward without their All-Star shortstop.
Peralta was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball on Monday along with 12 other players for their association with Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs.
Peralta’s punishment — the Tigers have not yet decided if they’ll make him eligible if they qualify for the postseason — is a tough blow for Detroit, which enters a four-game series against Cleveland leading the second-place Indians by just three games.
“He broke the rules and he has to pay for it and we support that totally,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said before Monday night’s opener. “He’s going to pay a price for it and our organization is going to move on from there. It will change the look of our ballclub a little bit, but we’ll move on. I think we still have a chance to win a world championship.”
The quiet and steady Peralta, who made his second All-Star team this season, is batting .305 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs. His name has been tied to the investigation for months, and to protect themselves in case he got suspended, the Tigers acquired infielder Jose Iglesias from Boston before the trading deadline.
Peralta released a statement through the Tigers.
“In spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret,” he said. “I apologize to everyone that I have hurt as a result of my mistake, including my teammates, the Tigers’ organization, the great fans in Detroit, Major League Baseball, and my family. I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension.
“I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down. I promise to do everything possible to try and earn back the respect that I have lost.”
Peralta’s teammates had his back.
He got universal support in Detroit’s clubhouse, which seemed no different than any other day in the season.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” pitcher Justin Verlander said. “He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”
Dombrowski said the team has not yet considered whether Peralta will be back on the roster if the defending AL champions make the postseason.
“Right now, that’s not something we’re going to tackle at this point,” Dombrowski said. “We don’t have to make that decision. That’s way down the road, so we’ll focus on what we need to do, which is to win ballgames and worry about that question later on.”
Dombrowski said Peralta did not discuss any appeal with the Tigers.
“My understanding is that if you’re guilty you take the suspension, and if you’re not guilty you appeal it, and they (Peralta’s representatives) decided to take the suspension,” Dombrowski said.
Tigers starter Max Scherzer harshly criticized Milwaukee star Ryan Braun, who was recently suspended 65 games for cheating. Scherzer felt Braun’s penalty should have been longer, but he was more sympathetic toward Peralta.
“It’s pretty apparent how I feel toward cheaters,” Scherzer said. “With Jhonny, it’s disappointing. It really is, but he took ownership of it and hopefully we can move forward. It’s a disappointing day when you have to talk about PEDs in baseball and the fans of baseball have to question who’s doing what in this game and have to question if players are still taking PEDs and we still have to answer these questions.
“It’s unfair to all of us, but at the end of the day that’s reality and hopefully we can further our program to make its stricter so that we don’t have these days anymore and we can continue to have a clean game.”
When Detroit’s clubhouse opened at 3:30 p.m., reporters were turned away at the door and told to go to the Tigers’ dugout, where Dombrowski answered questions for about 10 minutes and said he would serve as the team’s lone spokesman on Peralta’s situation.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was in no mood to talk about anything but baseball.
He curtly answered a few field-related questions about Iglesias in his office when a reporter asked if he had any comment about Peralta.
“See you guys,” Leyland said as he lifted a cup of freshly brewed coffee off his desk. “See you later, that’s the end of the press conference. You were told that I wasn’t going to comment on it. See ya.”
Dombrowski knows that losing Peralta’s powerful bat from Detroit’s fearsome lineup is a major blow and difficult to replace. But in the slick-fielding Iglesias, the Tigers have a versatile player capable of playing short or third.
The Tigers will have to change their stripes.
“It’s a little bit of a different kind of look, you got somebody who has a little more range and can do a little more from a defensive perspective,” Dombrowski said of Iglesias, who has already made several stellar plays in the field. “He runs better. He’s not going to hit the ball out of the ballpark like Jhonny. But there’s all kinds of different ways to win and we’ll try to win in a different fashion.
“There’s no question you’re not going to have the same offense, so you’ll have to make up for it in other ways.”