Holliday's approach to Peralta: Forgive and forget

News-DemocratJanuary 20, 2014 

— Forgive and forget. That's Matt Holliday's approach with his new St. Louis Cardinals teammate, Jhonny Peralta.

Holliday has been an outspoken critic of players who used performance-enhancing drugs. Peralta served a 50-game suspension last season after he tested positive with the Detroit Tigers.

Seeking an offensive upgrade over Pete Kozma, the Cardinals signed Peralta, a 31-year-old shortstop, to a four-year, $53 million deal Nov. 24. Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak, aware of Holliday's stance on PEDs, called the left fielder before the transaction was finalized.

Appearing at the Cardinals' 18th annual Winter Warm-Up on Monday at Hyatt Regency at The Arch, Holliday wasn't comfortable discussing details of his conversation with Mozeliak.

"I would rather not," he said. "Mo just called and said this is what we're going to do. It's not like he asked me if it was OK."

Holliday took the high road, sending Peralta a welcoming text. Peralta's ill-fated decision to use PEDs, Holliday said, is water under the bridge and he doesn't think Peralta owes an explanation to his new teammates about what occurred.

"He took the suspension, served it," Holliday said. "His teammates in Detroit welcomed him back. I don't think it's necessarily something he has to address. If he wants to, that's his prerogative. But I don't think, as teammates, it's anything we expect."

Holliday took exception to the suggestion that he's more adamant than others about ridding the game of PEDs.

"Just because I've said it publicly doesn't mean everybody's not against it," Holliday said. "The guys that aren't using (PEDs) are against it. We want a level playing field. Everybody wants a level playing field that's not using it. So I don't think I'm any different than anybody else other than being a player who's played a long time and has had a platform to say that.

"For me to be more outspoken or more against it, I don't think is accurate because I think all players that are clean are against it. We all want a level playing field so at the end of our careers, we can look back and say, 'This is how I matched up against other guys who were doing it the right way.'"

How will baseball rid itself of PEDs?

"The only way that I know is to make the suspension harsher," Holliday said.

Holliday likes the offensive boost Peralta is expected to provide. He's a .268 career hitter who batted .303 with 30 doubles, 11 home runs, 55 RBIs and a .330 on-base percentage in 2013.

The Cardinals also liked Peralta's ability to hit left-handers. Last season, he batted .352 with a .560 slugging percetange vs. lefties.

"We were looking to upgrade offensively at shortstop, and I think he does that for sure," Holliday said. "He's a good player. He's had a long career. I'm excited to see him play. You don't see American League guys a whole lot, so I'll be interested to get down to spring training and watch him play."

And the slate will be clean.

"I am against PEDs and always will be," Holliday said. "But I also am a forgiving person and he served his suspension. That's the rules of the game. I'm happy to have him as a teammate."

Holliday, who turned 34 on Wednesday, salvaged his 2013 season by batting .348 in the second half. He finished at .300 with 31 doubles, 22 home runs and 94 RBIs in 141 games.

"I was pleased with the second half. I wasn't exactly too happy with (the first half)," he said. "But if you play long enough, you're going to have periods in your career you're not real happy with. I was pleased with the way I was able to play in the second half of the season."

As usual, Holliday has been a workout machine in the winter. Pitcher Trevor Rosenthal has been his workout buddy.

"We do some sled-pushing and some tire-flipping and some fireman-carries. That was interesting," Holliday said. "He threw me over his shoulder, too. We have a whole new relationship now, throwing our sweaty bodies on top of each other."

Holliday, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 250 pounds, and the 6-2, 220-pound Rosenthal carried each other 20 meters.

"If he had dropped me, I wouldn't have been very happy," said Holliday, who has become close friends with Rosenthal in the last year. "We've been pretty close since last offseason. He likes to work out. He's a hard worker. He takes this thing real serious.

"A lot like me, he wants to be the very best he can possibly be. It's been fun to watch his discipline and his effort."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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