CHICAGO — The Detroit Tigers are giving Jhonny Peralta a chance to earn a spot on their roster.
That’s about all general manager Dave Dombrowski would promise when he discussed the suspended infielder’s future Tuesday. Peralta, who accepted a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Aug. 5, will work out with the Tigers before Wednesday’s game in Chicago against the White Sox.
"From our perspective, there really is an obligation with giving him a chance to come back," Dombrowski said. "We’ll make a baseball decision at some point, as we get closer, whether to activate him."
Peralta was suspended as part of baseball’s investigation into Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Dombrowski said even if Peralta returns, he would not be the team’s everyday shortstop. Shortly before his suspension, the Tigers traded for a replacement, acquiring slick-fielding infielder Jose Iglesias from Boston.
Dombrowski said Peralta will do some hitting Wednesday and also take groundballs and flyballs.
The 31-year-old Peralta has never played the outfield in the major leagues. He’s only played shortstop, third base and first base, and the latter two positions are occupied on the Tigers by sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
AL Central-leading Detroit is trying to hold off Cleveland for its third straight division title after winning the American League pennant in 2012. Peralta was having a fine season before he was suspended, hitting .305 with 11 home runs.
Peralta, a free agent after this season, is eligible to return on Sept. 27 for the Tigers’ final three regular-season games at Miami. Dombrowski said at some point between now and then, Peralta will join Detroit’s instructional league team.
"He’s been in the Dominican Republic, so he’s been working out," Dombrowski said. "We’ve got enough time for him to take batting practice to get ready, so there really was nothing to be gained by bringing him in earlier than this. Now, at this time, to properly get him ready for the season — if we do decide to activate him — this is about the right time."
Last year, All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera served a 50-game suspension that ended in October. The San Francisco Giants kept him off the roster on their way to winning the World Series.
The Tigers aren’t the only team facing a similar dilemma this time around, trying to figure out how effective a key player can be after a long suspension. Texas slugger Nelson Cruz was back with the Rangers toward the end of last month, hoping to come back for the post-season after his suspension ends.
Dombrowski said giving Peralta another look is the right thing to do.
"Really you are under some obligation to attempt to try to give him the opportunity to try to come back, because it’s a negotiated settlement of a 50-day suspension that the commissioner’s office and the players’ association have agreed upon," Dombrowski said. "Are you told that you have to? No. But you also are told that there is some obligation. I think really where we fall at this time, too: You pay the punishment, you pay the price — which he has — and you sit back and we can see how he is."