The eye black and gladiators T-shirt Joel Peralta wore around the Rays clubhouse Wednesday may have been a statement, along with the impressive eighth-inning performance. But otherwise the veteran reliever awaited his pending suspension in media silence, declining to say any more about being ejected from Tuesday's game when umpires found pine tar in his glove after the Nationals asked for a check.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon and Nationals counterpart Davey Johnson filled the void, and the notebooks, exchanging a series of shots in separate media sessions before the teams met again on the field.
Johnson called Maddon "a weird wuss," referred to him as "the guru over there," poked fun by pointing out he also had a doctorate degree and said Maddon needs to "read the rule book."
Maddon termed Johnson's Tuesday tactics "underhanded" and possibly "a form of cheating," said free-agent players may "think twice" about coming to Washington given how the staff was willing to "rat on" a former teammate and continued to strongly suggest (though without proof) that current Nationals were unhappy with what happened.
Peralta, using teammate Jeremy Hellickson's glove, pitched Wednesday without incident, fans booing and a few chanting "Cheat-er.''
The next official action could occur today, as Major League Baseball officials will complete their evaluation of Peralta's glove, which was confiscated during the game and shipped to New York on Wednesday, and announce discipline.
The rules mandate a suspension, and while 10 games is an established precedent as well as the minor-league standard, Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said there can be some flexibility. "I don't think it's that cut and dry," he said. "Personally, I think it will be less than that, but I don't really know. It's in their hands."
Johnson said he thought an ejection was enough of a punishment and that a 10-game suspension was "way too severe."
Whatever the term, the Rays will be shorthanded, forced to play with a 24-man roster. To adjust for Peralta's absence, they are planning to send down a position player (likely outfielder Rich Thompson) and bring up another reliever.
Furthering their woes, they are prohibited by rule from bringing back their best candidate, Brandon Gomes, who (barring an injury situation) is required to spend 10 days in the minors since last being sent down, on Monday. The leading candidates are right-handers Dane De La Rosa and Josh Lueke.
"It's going to have a great impact on us," Maddon said. "But even beyond that, I'm more concerned about (Peralta) personally, and the impact it may have on him."
Several Rays said they were concerned that Peralta would be - unfairly - labeled. "He looks like a cheater," reliever J.P. Howell said. "He looks like a jerk. And he's not. He's not at all. And that's just too bad."
They also echoed Maddon's comments, as did some others around baseball, that use of pine tar by pitchers was widespread, and not to much advantage as it primarily served to help them hold the ball, not throw it with more movement.
"Using pine tar is an accepted practice for a long time in baseball, not just recently," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said in Anaheim. "I don't think any hitter objects to it when it's a little cold or hot when you have excessive sweating. It's just used to get a grip on the ball. It doesn't change the flight of the ball.
"But it's in the rules and you have to abide by the rules. It's like getting pulled over for doing 66 mph in a 65-mph zone. Technically, it's against the law. That's the reality of it."
Maddon, who said he would like to see use of pine tar by pitchers legalized, insisted the matter fell properly under the category of the players policing themselves. He made it clear his primary issue was with Johnson acting on information gathered when Peralta played in Washington in 2010.
He said he would have no problem if the umpires noticed something and checked out the player and would be okay with a team complaining if it saw something, but cautioned "just make sure your own house is clean." In the 2008 World Series, Maddon pointed out discoloration on Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton's cap and asked the umpires to keep an eye on the balls but nothing was found, which Maddon said was the proper way to handle it.
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What is pine tar?
Pine tar is a thick, sticky liquid substance made from burning pinewood. Hitters are allowed to use it on bats to get a better grip. Rules prohibit pitchers from using it, but according to a slate.com report, people in baseball consider pitchers using pine tar a minor offense. In a 2005 column in the Sporting News, pitcher Todd Jones said he used pine tar every time he pitched a home game with the Colorado Rockies. "Pine tar is no big deal to players," Jones wrote. "Everybody uses pine tar. ... It's almost a basic part of the game. Sandpaper and Vaseline, however, are looked at as cheating."