LAKELAND, Fla. — Jhonny Peralta homered twice against his former team, going deep in his only plate appearances Monday in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 8-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Peralta played for the Tigers for three and a half seasons before signing with St. Louis as a free agent this offseason. He said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny asked a couple days earlier if he wanted to make the spring training trip to Lakeland to face Detroit. Peralta accepted that offer — then made his visit worthwhile with two solo homers off left-hander Drew Smyly.
Peralta’s first homer came on the first pitch he saw.
“First pitch — fastball,” Peralta said. “And then Smyly said something to me. I don’t know he said, but he was kidding around.”
Smyly clarified moments later.
“I said, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you swing at the first pitch like that in the two years I’ve known you,’” he said.
Nick Castellanos homered for the Tigers. Castellanos, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson had two hits apiece.
Detroit, which played a 10-inning scoreless tie against Atlanta on Sunday, scored seven runs in the first three innings Monday.
Cardinals: Joe Kelly gave up RBI singles to Martinez and Jackson in the first. He allowed two runs, two hits and two walks in 1 2-3 innings, striking out two.
Kelly is in the mix for a spot in the St. Louis rotation. His outing wasn’t great Monday, and Boone Whiting followed by allowing five runs — four earned — in one inning.
Tigers: Smyly allowed two runs and three hits in three innings, striking out two. Peralta’s first homer was a towering drive to left field. The second was an opposite-field shot that cleared the wall in right with help from the wind.
“That first one might have created the wind that allowed the second one to go out,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus joked.
Peralta hit .303 with 11 homers for the Tigers last year — despite missing significant time thanks to a 50-game suspension that was part of baseball’s drug investigation.
Even before his two-homer outing, Matheny spoke highly of Peralta’s dependability.
“I think we know what we’re going to have as far as his performance on the field,” Matheny said. “You guys have probably spent enough time around him to know he’s not making a lot of requests. He just does whatever needs to be done. ... When I suggested to him early on that I was going to try and structure his games to where he could come here and play — I think it’s good for the fans to be able to see one of their former players. It’s always nice for him to be able to catch up with some of his teammates.”
CASTELLANOS ON THE CORNER
Castellanos is one of Detroit’s most highly touted recent prospects, and he’ll have a chance to play third base now that Cabrera is back at first following the offseason trade of Prince Fielder to Texas.
When Fielder was at first and Cabrera was playing third last year, it looked as if Castellanos’ future would be in the outfield. Now Ausmus wants him to get comfortable back at third.
“He hasn’t been this close to the hitter in a couple years. Things happen a little bit quicker for him, so he’s got to get the timing of it,” Ausmus said. “I think the most important thing is for Nick to get repetitions at third base, more than anything else.”
At the plate, Castellanos looks fine. His RBI single was part of a five-run third inning for the Tigers on Monday, and his solo homer to left in the fifth made it 8-2.