OAKLAND -- The Tigers have stayed alive in this American League Division Series in no small part by getting Jhonny Peralta back into their lineup, putting their Opening Day shortstop in left field. For Thursday's winner-take-all Game 5, manager Jim Leyland took his chances with Peralta back at short.
Don Kelly, who put up two infield singles against A's Game 5 starter Sonny Gray in his Game 2 gem, got the start in left field. Jose Iglesias, Detroit's everyday shortstop since early August, was on the bench, though Leyland said he could enter at shortstop for the late innings if the Tigers have a lead.
It's Peralta's first start at shortstop since Aug. 4, the day before he accepted a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. He returned from the suspension for the final series of the regular season in Miami, starting all three games in left field, but moved to shortstop for a couple innings in each of the last two games.
Peralta started Games 3 and 4 at Comerica Park in left and drove in a total of five runs.
"It's simple -- we've gotta to try to score," Leyland said. "So that pretty much sums that up."
Actually, there's a little more to it, the starting pitcher being one of them.
Leyland said Thursday afternoon he had considered making the move earlier this series. He did not do it behind ground-ball pitcher Doug Fister in Game 4. With Justin Verlander starting Game 5, he changed his mind.
Verlander has quietly put up a bizarre streak of strikeouts, popouts and flyouts. He has not had an out recorded at first base in his last three starts, covering 19 innings. His only ground-ball out in that span was a fielder's choice Sept. 23 at Minnesota, in which Twins baserunner Alex Presley took off from second on a grounder hit right to short.
Kelly put up two of Detroit's four hits against Gray last Saturday. One of the others came from Iglesias on a ground ball to short, which is Iglesias' only hit since he returned to the Tigers lineup two weeks ago after a 95-mph fastball struck him on his left hand.
Leyland tried to downplay the move, calling it "no big deal to me at all."
At the same time, he emphasized that this was his decision to make.
"This is on me," he said. "I thought about this lineup. ... All I know is we were here at the same time last year [for Game 5] and our shortstop was Jhonny Peralta."
Benoit open to 2014 role as Tigers' setup man
OAKLAND -- Joaquin Benoit would like to be back with the Tigers next year, whether he'd be closing or setting up again.
That was the gist of his answer to reporters during his scheduled session at the podium before Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Thursday. It potentially could have been his last day in a Tigers uniform after three years as a stalwart in Detroit's bullpen. He's a free agent at season's end, and his success closing -- even in the small sample size of just over half a season -- gives him a nice place on the market at age 36.
Benoit could pick his role, or he could pick his team. With Bruce Rondon potentially in line for closing games, Benoit could have to pick which one is more important if the Tigers offer him a new deal.
"I think whatever decision they make is going to be great," Benoit said. "If they decide to go with me as a closer, I'm happy. If they decide to give me another chance and help him, being his setup man, I would be happy to."
That doesn't necessarily make it an automatic that Benoit will be back.
"I'm not the kind of guy that likes to say I'm going to be here for the rest of my life," he said.
Benoit tried to stay out of the closer discussion when Rondon was struggling in Spring Training. That gave the impression in some circles that he didn't want to close, a notion he dismissed at midseason. He insisted he didn't want to be a distraction from Rondon trying to win the job.
Once Benoit became the closer at the end of June, he became a mentor to the just-recalled Rondon.
"From the beginning of Spring Training, Rondon was the guy who was going to be the closer," Benoit explained, "and I was happy, because he's a young kid that has a lot to offer. His lack of experience, I guess, [got] the best of him at the beginning. But the second time he got called up, he showed that he belongs in the big leagues. He has the passion of a closer."
Coke resumes throwing program in Florida
OAKLAND -- While the Tigers prepared to try to continue their season, lefty reliever Phil Coke continued his throwing work in Florida, presenting the team with a potential option for later rounds in the postseason.
Coke, whose forearm flexor soreness has sidelined him since mid-September, has resumed throwing in the Tigers' Florida intstructional league. How soon he could be ready wasn't clear, but at the very least, it's progress from late September, when it was feared his injury could be something more serious.
With Coke injured, the Tigers added Jose Alvarez as a second lefty for the American League Division Series against the A's, but they used him as a long reliever rather than a specialist, saving lefty Drew Smyly and righty strikeout specialist Al Alburquerque for lefty matchups. A matchup with the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series would present similar decisions.