Jhonny Peralta has bounced back nicely from suspension

Detroit Tigers hitter Jhonny Peralta hits a single

Detroit Tigers hitter Jhonny Peralta hits a single against the Boston Red Sox during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. (Oct. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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BOSTON - In answering questions about playing Alex Rodriguez after MLB hit him with a 211-game suspension, Joe Girardi consistently answered the same: Those are the rules. The rules allow him to play during his appeal, so he'll play.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has his own player, Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended in connection with the Biogenesis investigation. He was one of 13 players who accepted a 50-game ban from MLB in August.

Asked if there was ever a question whether the Tigers would play Peralta after he served his penalty, the veteran manager didn't warm to the topic, one he's addressed plenty of times.

"That was a decision made by Dave Dombrowski,'' Leyland said of the Tigers' general manager. "According to the rules, you had to bring him back, and then you had to make a baseball decision whether you wanted to keep him or not, and that was a decision Dave said that he would make.''

Was he comfortable with that? "Like I said,'' he said, "that was a decision Dave made.''

Don't misunderstand Leyland's gruffness. He and the Tigers have benefited greatly from Peralta's return.

The 31-year-old went 5-for-12 in the ALDS against the A's, hitting a tying three-run homer in the fifth inning of Game 4. The Tigers went on to win that game and the deciding Game 5.

In the Tigers' 1-0 win in ALCS Game 1, Peralta -- who heard chants of "Steroids! Steroids!'' from the Fenway Park crowd during every at-bat -- went 3-for-4 and had a two-out RBI single in the sixth.

"I don't try to put attention about what the fans are doing or whatever,'' said Peralta, who hit .303 with a .358 OBP, 11 homers and 55 RBIs in the regular season. "I think it's better for me to go to home plate and try to work hard every day. I don't try to listen to what people say, the fans and everything. I try to concentrate every day in the game and try to do my job.''

Peralta said that during his suspension, he worked out in the Dominican Republic and then went to the team's spring training complex in Lakeland, Fla., to work with a hitting coach. He was ready when Dombrowski said he could rejoin the team.

"They call me and they give me the opportunity to be here, so I try to work hard every day,'' Peralta said. "That's what I tried to do more than anything, prepare to be in the playoffs.''

Peralta, whom Leyland played in leftfield in Game 1 to keep his bat in the lineup and started at shortstop in Game 2 Sunday night, was swinging well before his suspension and has picked up from there.

Torii Hunter said Peralta's suspension wasn't the subject of much clubhouse conversation, and that an apology to his teammates wasn't necessary.

"We love him in the clubhouse,'' Hunter said. "If you dig in everybody's closets, we've all made mistakes. In college, in high school, come on, somewhere down the line, we've made mistakes. But we get over them and we learn from them. And Jhonny Peralta is an awesome, awesome guy. If you got to know him, you wouldn't boo him. We all made mistakes. He made mistakes, he's punished for them and now he's here to help us win a championship.''

Quite a few Red Sox players were critical of Rodriguez's taking the field for the Yankees while he appealed his suspension -- and Ryan Dempster acted on that anger by hitting him with a pitch -- but nothing critical has been heard in this series. Of course, Peralta did serve his time and, simply put, he's not the lightning rod Rodriguez is.

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