It was in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday night when excessive amounts of pine tar in Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta’s mitt led to his ejection. And it was in the bottom of the eighth inning of Washington’s 3-2 win Wednesday night that he entered the game again, this time to a smattering of boos.
“I did not,” he said with a big smile.
“No, no,” Rays manager Joe Maddon also said. “It didn’t even cross my mind.”
Johnson sparked a war of words Tuesday when he asked umpire Tim Tschida to check Peralta’s mitt in Washington’s 5-4 loss. He received inside information that the former Nationals reliever “liked a little pine tar” and acted on it. Maddon saw this as violation of the league’s unwritten rules and told reporters it was “cowardly” and used another choice five-letter word.
The Rays’ skipper fielded questions from the visiting team’s dugout prior to the game and said he would not hesitate to use Peralta, who is awaiting Major League Baseball’s ruling and could face a mandatory suspension of up to 10 games. And with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, he acted on his promise. Peralta struck out pinch hitter Rick Ankiel and got Roger Bernadina to ground out to the shortstop. All six of his pitches were strikes.
Maddon said the pitching change was not meant to be inflammatory.
“For me, it’s done,” he explained. “I said what I had to say. I feel good about what I said. I do not retract anything that I did say. So it’s time to move on.
“You had all the lefties coming up. It was Ankiel, they were going to pinch-hit Bernadina and then it was Harper and Zimmerman down the ropes. That’s a great slot for [Peralta], with all those lefties, that’s a great slot. And then after that it would have been Wade Davis with all the righties in the bottom of the batting order.”
Peralta’s performance was not enough to deter the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg, who recorded double-digit strikeouts (10) for the sixth time in his young career. But even he felt the ramifications of the pine tar controversy when umpire Jeff Nelson approached the mound before the game’s first pitch. Strasburg thought they wanted to see his mitt.
“[Nelson] came out to look at it instead of asking for the ball because it bounced on the throw to second,” Johnson explained. “Stras was getting ready to undress. He took his glove off, he had everything, and the ump said, ‘No, I just want the ball’. … It was kind of humorous.”
When asked if he had made a special effort to keep his glove clean before the game, Strasburg was succinct.
“Why would it be dirty? I don’t cheat,” he said.
“It’s pretty hard to get pine tar dropped on the inside of your glove.”
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