LAKELAND, Fla. - Somehow, Jhonny Peralta has survived.
Barring some last-minute trade that doesn't look apparent at the moment, Peralta will be the Tigers' starting shortstop on Opening Day next Monday in Minnesota against the Twins.
In didn't always look as if that was going to happen for Peralta, who is entering his fourth season in Motown.
In fact, there seemed to be one thing almost certain late last September: Peralta was a goner.
The buzz was that Tigers needed to make a change as Peralta was finishing up a dreadful season, especially at the plate.
Peralta, 30, went from an All-Star in 2011 with a .299 batting average with 21 homers and 86 RBI to a paltry .239 with 13 HRs and 63 RBI.
Hence, in the off-season there were rumors that the Tigers might not pick up his option and were in the market for a new shortstop.
And even after they did pick up Peralta's $6 million option for this season, the trade talk for a new shortstop didn't go away.
It was so loud that Peralta heard all the talk in his home country of the Dominican Republic.
"It didn't bother me," said Peralta, who hit his first spring training homer on Saturday in the Tigers' 10-6 victory over the New York Yankees. "I tried to play day and day and whatever happens is going to happen... I don't worry about them getting another shortstop."
The name that kept coming up was J.J. Hardy, the Baltimore Orioles' shortstop. He didn't hit any better as far as average, batting a woeful .238. But Hardy had more pop with 22 HR and 68 RBI.
Plus, the Tigers like him in the field better than Peralta. Hardy won his first Gold Glove last season.
For a hot minute, there was also talk of signing free-agent SS Stephen Drew.
GM Dave Dombrowski tried to downplay all the chatter. He admitted that if the Tigers wanted to get more athletic at a spot, it would be at short. But he added, "We're happy with Peralta."
Like him or not, it is kind of a slap in the face to Peralta. After all, he did hit well in the American League Championship Series. He batted .389 with two homers and three RBI in the four-game sweep of the Yankees.
Plus, Peralta's team did make it to the World Series with him at shortstop. Yet, he was identified as the player that had to be replaced.
"Last year, we went to the World Series," he said. "It's important to try to keep things together... I'd like to be here, try to go to another World Series. That's what I've tried to focus on for this year."
Still, the Tigers' offense was so feast-or-famine last season. Proof positive was that the Tigers scored just two runs in getting swept in four games by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
The Tigers need Peralta to be a tougher out and pick up those RBI chances at the bottom of the lineup.
Peralta isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball this spring. Going into Sunday, he was batting just .194. But he said he's not worried at all.
"I feel good at the plate," Peralta said. "I see the ball pretty good from the pitcher.
"I'm not hitting great, but I feel good."
It's not just an offensive thing. It's defensively as well. Although he made the same amount of errors as he did in 2011 (seven), Peralta just doesn't get to a lot of ball. His range is limited.
That's a bad thing for a team that has two anchors at third base and first base as well. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder don't get to balls average players playing the corners do.
With the stellar starting staff the Tigers have, the last thing you can afford to do is give up hits on balls that should have been turned into outs.
"I feel good in the field right now," said Peralta, who dropped 21 pounds.
At no time did the Tigers tell Peralta to ignore the rumors.
"No we didn't talk about it," he said. "I just come to the field and focus on playing... Whatever happens, happens."
So far, nothing has happened.
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