Minus suspended stars, teams keep up playoff push
Jose Iglesias and a fresh band of Texas Rangers now have All-Star spikes to fill.
The playoff races took a twist Monday when Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz were suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis drug case. In all, 13 players were penalized.
The AL Central-leading Tigers acquired Iglesias from Boston in a three-team trade last week, preparing to play minus Peralta. The contending Rangers called up two outfielders from Triple-A soon after Cruz was banned.
“Who knows how it is going to hurt them with Peralta and Cruz being out? Who knows who comes up and how they’ll do? We’ll see how it shakes up,” Kansas City pitcher Aaron Crow said.
Crow has a rooting interest. The Royals could wind up chasing both affected teams – Detroit in the division, Texas for a wild-card spot.
“You never want to see someone get in trouble like that. But if it makes their team not as good, that’s good for us,” Crow said.
Peralta, hitting .305 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs, and Cruz, leading the Rangers with 27 homers and 76 RBIs, will be eligible for Game 1 of the playoffs if their teams make it.
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.
“Yeah, that happened to San Francisco last year and they survived it with Melky,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez of NL East-leading Atlanta. “But some teams might not be able to survive it when you lose a player.”
As for whether Peralta and Cruz would definitely be welcomed back, no determination yet.
“Right now, that’s not something we’re going to tackle at this point,” Tigers general manager Dave 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.”
Said Texas GM Jon Daniels: “Assuming that there’s no other information that we’re not yet aware of and if his teammates welcome him back, and Nellie handles this well, which I expect he probably will, then we’re open to it.”
Looking for insurance, the Tigers got Iglesias from the Red Sox before last week’s trade deadline in a three-team deal that included the Chicago White Sox.
Iglesias was hitting a combined .323 with two homers and 21 RBIs when the suspensions were announced. He’s split his time this season between third base and shortstop.
“It will change the look of our ballclub a little bit, but we’ll move on,” Dombrowski said. “I think we still have a chance to win a world championship.”
San Diego All-Star shortstop Everth Cabrera and Philadelphia lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo also were penalized. Their teams are below .500 and far back in the races.
Texas promoted outfielders Engel Beltre and Joey Butler from Triple-A Round Rock. Speedy Craig Gentry might get more playing time, too, in the Rangers’ rejiggered lineup without Cruz.
“It’s upsetting a little bit,” Gentry said. “He’s a great teammate and he’s been a big part of this ballclub for a lot of years. It’s going to be a little bit tough not having him around.”
Especially with the way he was hitting.
“It goes without saying we’re not going to replace Nelson’s production with any one player, whether that’s internally or via a trade,” Daniels said. “But we’re going to be creative. ... It’s a challenge for us, with Nelson’s history of production and the year he’s having.”