WASHINGTON — Rays reliever Joel Peralta was obviously guilty, ejected from Tuesday's 5-4 win over the Nationals and facing a suspension of potentially 10 or more games after being caught with pine tar in his glove.
But it was Rays manager Joe Maddon who was on the offensive afterward, accusing Washington manager Davey Johnson of a "real cowardly" — and another choice five-letter adjective — move in targeting Peralta as they did for something many others do.
"It's kind of a common practice that people have done this for years, and to point one guy out because he had pitched here a couple years ago, there probably was some common knowledge based on that, and so I thought it was a real cowardly — and I've used that word twice this year (also about Boston's Bobby Valentine) I guess, so it was kind of a (wimpy) move to go out there and do that under those circumstances."
Peralta's eyes were moist as he stood at his locker and said he was upset about what happened, but he didn't give much of a defense.
He acknowledged the pine tar was there, claimed it did not give him an advantage on the mound and wouldn't say how it got in his glove, other than a semi-explanation that it happened incidentally since he uses the same glove during batting practice.
"That's my BP glove, I'm out there every day playing catch with it, it's hot here," Peralta said. "That's what I've got to say about it."
Peralta, who pitched for the Nationals in 2010, entered the game to start the eighth but didn't get to throw a pitch as Johnson asked the umpires to check him, and after doing so they ejected him from the game and confiscated his glove.
Crew chief Tim Tschida said they found "a significant amount of pine tar" inside Peralta's glove "where the hand goes inside."
Johnson acknowledged he was operating with inside information — "it was a rumor that he liked a little pine tar" — but said he was still hesitant to proceed.
"I didn't just make it up or dream it up," Johnson said. "But I mean, there was conversations before the game. He was out there and I was talking to some of the guys and I said, 'How'd we let this guy get away?' I thought he pitched pretty good for us and I saw he's been a kind of invaluable setup man for Tampa Bay. One thing led to another and I got probably more information than I really needed. I don't know."
Maddon said he was concerned about Peralta's reputation.
"To single out Joel Peralta tonight, that is my concern," he said. "That Joel does not get vilified, that's my concern. Because this guy has done a great job. He's been an excellent relief pitcher. And to in any way tarnish what he's done to this point because there's going to be suggestions made based on what happened tonight, and I think that's wrong and inappropriate. Because it's been a common practice for many, many years for anybody to try to get an edge in many, many ways."
Maddon wasn't the only member of the Rays upset with the Nationals' actions. First baseman Carlos Peña said it was "not honorable" and "cowardly" for them to take such action against a former mate. "What hurts me the most is that someone betrayed an ex-teammate," Peña said.
Peralta seems certain to be suspended, and there is precedent for a 10-game ban. That's what Brendan Donnelly, then with the Angels (where Maddon was the bench coach), got in 2005 during a similar incident.
"I promise you one thing, you're going to see brand new gloves throughout the major leagues starting (today)," Maddon said.
The Rays (38-29) worked around the Peralta issue to hang on for an impressive 5-4 win. Peña and Elliot Johnson had big hits, and David Price pitched seven innings for his ninth win of the season.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.