JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta checked into spring training camp four days ahead of the mandatory reporting date, eager to greet his new teammates Thursday and move past last year's problems.
The two-time All-Star was suspended for 50 games last season while with Detroit because of his involvement with the Biogenesis drug scandal.
Peralta became a free agent after the season ended and signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals worth $53 million, a deal that didn't sit well with many around baseball.
While St. Louis fans seemed to welcome Peralta, he expects that reception to change once the Cardinals hit the road.
"I know a lot of fans, they are going to talk," Peralta said. "They are going to say a lot of things. It's baseball. You need to forget about it and try to play baseball."
The 31-year-old hadn't met most of the Cardinals players or coaches prior to his arrival in camp, though he did receive offseason texts from the likes of left fielder Matt Holliday and manager Mike Matheny.
"Getting here early is important," Peralta said. "I want to know everybody here in the clubhouse before everything starts, meet every coach and every training guy."
Matheny and Peralta spoke in person for the first time on Thursday.
"He's here early, obviously, and it's exciting to see, just like everybody else," Matheny said. "His excuse isn't (escaping the) snow, either. I think he just wanted to be here and get with his team. We are anxious to let him feel his way through this and start to build those relationships."
Anemic offensive production from shortstops Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso in 2013, and the lack of a big league-ready prospect in the farm system, prompted the Cardinals to sign Peralta.
Both Kozma and Descalso will be back in Cardinals camp. Last October, they went a combined 1 for 20 while splitting the shortstop job in the World Series loss to Boston.
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