Published October 10, 2013
Detroit manager Jim Leyland chose offense over defense when it came to picking his shortstop for Game 5 of the AL division series against the Oakland Athletics.
Leyland gave Jhonny Peralta his first start at shortstop since Aug. 4 for the win-or-go-home game against Sonny Gray and the A's on Thursday night. Peralta has played mostly in left field since returning from a 50-game drug suspension for the final three games of the regular season. Leyland had gone with the slick-fielding rookie Jose Iglesias at shortstop until now.
"Well, Jhonny Peralta has played shortstop a whole lot more than he's played left field," Leyland said. "He's been on the All Star team twice since he's been here as a shortstop, so I feel totally comfortable with it."
Peralta started both games in Detroit in left field, driving in five runs and hitting a momentum-shifting three-run homer in Game 4 that helped force the decisive fifth game.
He played six innings as a late-inning replacement at shortstop the final weekend of the season in Miami, handling all three chances cleanly. Peralta made only four errors in the regular season but lacks Iglesias' range. That's less of a factor with Justin Verlander on the mound because he gets most of his out on strikeouts and fly outs.
The move with Peralta also allowed Leyland to start Don Kelly in left field. Kelly had two of the four hits off Gray in Game 2 and is a superior defensive player in left field to Peralta.
"Really what you're doing is playing Kelly for Jose Iglesias," Leyland said. "Donny Kelly had two hits off of Gray the other night. He put a hit-and-run in play. He's an excellent defender in left field. So when we weighed all the options, this was a decision that I ended up making after some discussion and this is on me."
DIFFERENT DRUMMER: Dodgers Game 1 starter Zack Greinke can be blunt, and Cardinals reliever John Axford likes him that way.
In the 2011 postseason, Greinke referred to Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter as a phony. He's been known to reject questions that haven't been fully thought out and to dismiss meaningless phrases used in greetings.
But Axford said he got along just fine with Greinke when they were both with the Milwaukee Brewers, calling him a "fantastic" teammate with a "refreshing" personality in a profession where tossing out platitudes is common.
"A lot of people dance around certain subjects or dance around questions and answers, and he doesn't have the clichés," Axford said. "He throws out how he feels, how he honestly feels, and that's a great thing to see sometimes."
Not 100 percent of the time, of course.
"At other times it makes you think and wonder, but that's just the way Zack is," Axford said. "He's unapologetic, which is perfect. That's why I've always liked him."
CALLASPO'S CHANCE: Alberto Callaspo vowed when the playoffs began to be ready for whatever role the Oakland Athletics needed him to fill.
With the season on the line, manager Bob Melvin gave Callaspo his first career postseason start, at second base and batting seventh against Detroit's Justin Verlander for the deciding Game 5 of the AL division series.
The A's acquired Callaspo from the AL West rival Angels at the July trade deadline confident he could still play his old spot at second.
He entered the game 4 for 19 with four strikeouts and two walks against Verlander, but hit safely in each of his seven regular-season games against Detroit this season and owns a 14-game hitting streak versus the Tigers.
Callaspo had pinch-hit appearances in three of the first four games, with a double in Game 2 after Verlander was already gone.
"Like any game, particularly in the postseason, particular in a Game 5, you're looking to try to get your best lineup, your hottest hitters up there as much times as you can," Melvin said. "Similar to what they're doing with Jhonny Peralta at short, they're trying to get their best offense in there, and that's the reason Callaspo is in there."