Early Tuesday afternoon, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson was taking a look at a Tampa Bay Rays team he was mostly unfamiliar with. He watched as reliever Joel Peralta came out to get his work in with the rest of the Rays relievers and he remembered the work Peralta had done for the Nationals in 2010.
“How’d we let this guy get away?” Johnson wondered aloud, recalling Peralta’s 2.02 ERA in 49 innings that year. In what seemed like a somewhat puzzling decision at the time, the Nats non-tendered Peralta after the season.
“One thing led to another,” Johnson said. “And I got probably more information than I needed.”
The glove was confiscated and removed from the field after Tschida saw what he called a “significant amount” of pine tar on it. Peralta was ejected and appeared to tip his cap toward the Nationals’ dugout. He also will face an automatic suspension of an undetermined length.
When Ryan Mattheus came out to pitch the top of the ninth, the umpires were sent out by the Rays to check Mattheus‘ hat and glove. Tschida told Rays manager Joe Maddon he’d get one check and to use it wisely, but the Washington’s right-hander was clean.
“I promise you one thing,” Maddon said. “You’re going to see brand new gloves throughout the major leagues starting tomorrow with pitchers on every major league ballclub. … It’s kind of a common practice that people have done for years. To point one guy out because he’d pitched here a couple years ago, there was probably some common knowledge based on that. And I thought it was a real cowardly move.”
After Mattheus retired the side, striking out B.J. Upton to end the inning, he appeared to glance at the Rays’ dugout as well. Mattheus said later he was fully expecting to be checked. All Tschida said he found was a sweaty hat and a glove that was “clean as a whistle.”
There are more layers to this, though, which make it all the more interesting with two games remaining in the series.
Not only was Peralta a member of the Nats’ bullpen in 2010, he also pitched for their Triple-A affiliate that year. That means he came into contact with many current Nationals, including relievers Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen, as well as pitching coach Steve McCatty and first base coach (then manager of the Triple-A club) Trent Jewett.
The relievers who’d played with Peralta were mum. Several declined comment and those who did speak, like Clippard, said only that Peralta did “unbelievable things for us, was a great guy and we loved having him here.”
“I don’t know exactly what he puts in his glove or what they found or what he uses,” said Mattheus, who played with Peralta in the Rockies’ organization in 2009. “As far as I know Joel, he’s a great, great guy. Standup guy. I don’t think he’s out there cheating trying to get over on us or anything like that. It’s unfortunate.”