July 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Lynn Henning

Tigers won't be totally caught short if Jhonny Peralta is suspended

Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, here turning a double play at Kansas City Sunday, has denied involvement in the Biogenesis Clinic. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Talking points as the Tigers, who act as if 10 games above .500 is some kind of ceiling, ponder a playoff bid that shouldn’t be this harrowing:

What to do at shortstop if Jhonny Peralta is lost for significant time.

The Tigers, privately, have been sorting through their options should Peralta be suspended in the aftermath of MLB’s investigation into the Biogenesis clinic, a probe that Monday claimed Brewers slugger Ryan Braun for the remainder of this season.

Peralta’s name was found on Biogenesis records. He has denied any involvement. But if investigators disagree — and they have not announced any all-clear for Peralta or other names linked to Biogenesis — he could be suspended for a stretch that leaves the Tigers with a hole at baseball’s most vital defensive position.

Unless their basic plan changes — or an appeals process drags out — the Tigers will call up Argenis Diaz from Triple A Toledo. He is 26 and has 22 games of experience (Pirates, 2010; hit .242). His ticket to Detroit will have been stamped by his glove. Diaz makes plays that clamp down innings, keep pitch counts from rising and bullpens from fraying.

Diaz, a right-handed hitter, is hitting .265 in 90 games at Toledo. He has two home runs and 26 doubles. He will not help the batting order. But he will not crush it. Anything he contributes — if he, in fact, is summoned — will be gravy. It’s defense the Tigers will fundamentally need down the stretch in playing tight, playoff-drive games.

Danny Worth is another player the Tigers will consider. He has not hit at Toledo in 2013 after all but winning a job during spring camp, but a bad foot cost him nearly two months, and Worth is now beginning to show a pulse. He has a home run and four doubles in his last 10 games. Worth’s knack for playing three infield positions is why the Tigers could bring him aboard, especially when Ramon Santiago (.167 this season, .206 in 2012) creeps closer to a possible designation for assignment.

Should the Tigers lose Peralta, they of course will be happy to talk trade. But those talks could last about as long as tonight’s conversation with the telemarketer who interrupts your dinner. Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan is a slick-gloved option who is absolutely available, but when you’ve hit .194 the past two seasons, the Tigers internal options suddenly look pretty good.

Miguel Cabrera is “day to day” with a sore hip.

Three weeks ago, Omar Infante got clipped at second base on a reckless slide and was pronounced “day to day” with a bruised leg. Infante has not played since.

For the same three weeks, Cabrera has been fighting a bad back, which now has morphed into a sore hip. He left Monday’s game in Chicago, and all you need to know is how bad Cabrera must have been hurting to have departed a game in progress.

If he disappears for a few days — or weeks — the Tigers will be in about the same shape as the White House when Abraham Lincoln gave way to Andrew Johnson. You can replace, physically, but that’s all you can do.

If the disabled list is necessary — and there is no indication it will be — manager Jim Leyland, fighting back tears, would probably go with Santiago/Don Kelly/Matt Tuiasosopo as his fill-in trio at third base.

It is expected the Tigers would recall Avisail Garcia, which would enable Leyland’s backup outfielders to do their best Cabrera impression at third.

But, of course, there is no sign that the above nightmare will confront the Tigers, or Leyland, who at the moment is in the visiting manager’s office at Chicago, deep in prayer.

Dave Dombrowski dealing with sticker shock as bullpen shopping continues.

You can never be sure about Dombrowski, the Tigers front-office chief. He has been known when markets have been tough to strike first and nail down the best deal possible rather than wait for a scary trade mart to perhaps become even more ghoulish.

But because so many teams are chasing the very component the Tigers are hunting — bullpen help — and because selling teams are demanding gold doubloons for the kinds of pitchers normally available in a swap for parking-meter tokens — Dombrowski probably has no choice but to wait for the July 31 deadline. He can’t part with players greedy sellers are now commanding Dombrowski to fork over (Nick Castellanos, Garcia, etc.).

So, everyone waits. He needs a right-handed reliever and a left-hander, now that Phil Coke wisely has been converted to situational relief. The buyers are many. The shopping aisles are crowded. The prices are absurd.


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