36-year-old right-hander Joel Peralta was a Washington National in 2010. In his one season in the nation's capital, the Dominican-born reliever was (1-0) with a 2.02 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 9 walks (1.65 BB/9) and 49 K's (9.00 K/9) in 39 games and 49.0 IP. After that season, Peralta was reportedly offered a one-year deal, but asked for two, which Washington wouldn't do. The one-time Oakland A's prospect, who'd signed as an amateur free agent in 1996 and also pitched for the Angels, Royals and Rockies before joining the Nats, signed a 1-year/$925,000 dollar deal with Tampa Bay instead, and re-signed with the Rays after going (3-4) with six saves in 71 games and 67.2 IP over which he posted a 2.93 ERA, 3.37 FIP and allowed 18 walks (2.39 BB/9) while striking out 61 (8.11 K/9). After his first year in the AL East with Tampa Bay, Peralta avoided arbitration with the Rays and agreed to a 1-year/$2.175M dollar deal last December.
Tonight in Nationals Park, the right-hander returned to the mound in D.C. for the first time since September 29, 2010. The Nationals apparently hadn't forgotten their former teammate. In fact, as we'd find out later, there was some chatter on the Nats' part about a habit the now-36-year-old reliever had when he pitched in a Nationals uniform. As Peralta warmed up tonight, 69-year-old Nats' skipper Davey Johnson came out to talk to home plate umpire Tim Tschida. Johnson had his lineup card in his hand and the two looked at their respective cards as they talked briefly. The ump then turned toward the visiting team's dugout and motioned for Rays' manager Joe Maddon, who accompanied Tschida to the mound where the umpire's crew convened for a discussion with the Rays' reliever. After a brief discussion, Peralta turned his glove over to Tschida.
Davey Johnson watched from the top step of the Nationals' dugout. Peralta threw up his hands as he handed his glove over. Tschida handed the glove to one of his umpires who took it to down the runway on the side of the field. He returned without the glove and Peralta and his manager soon walked off the mound together while left-hander Jake McGee quickly warmed and entered the game. Peralta was ejected. Maddon was not happy. The Rays' left-hander came on and retired the Nationals in order in the eighth inning of what was then a 5-4 game in Tampa Bay's favor.
The Rays would hold on to win, though not before demanding that the umpires check Nats' reliever Ryan Mattheus glove in the top of the ninth. Nothing was found on Mattheus, however. After the game, both managers had it out through the media. When Davey Johnson was asked by reporters if it was someone in his dugout who told him to check Peralta's glove, Johnson said, "No," but explained, "I don't know, Spring Training, or during the year, there's been some chirping about pine tar. And this wasn't the first one I did. I did one in the  League Championship series against the Dodgers, I think it was Jay Howell had it in his glove and in his hat. Now with the black gloves and the black hats it's a little harder to detect."
"Especially if somebody has been known to use a foreign substance on their glove or their hat," the manager continued, "A nice hot night is the time to use it. And so I asked them to check. Obviously he had it."
"It was a rumor that he liked a little pine tar," Johnson explained.
"I was hesitant to do it," Johnson said, "Then Tim [Tschida] was looking at me kind of grinning he said, 'Oh, what do you want?' And so I walked out and said, 'Well, would you check it? Just to make sure. I'm curious.'" As for where such a rumor might have started, Johnson said matter-of-factly, "Well... he pitched here. I don't think it's a secret."
So, someone with the Nationals knew? "Yeah, I didn't just make it up," Johnson said. "But there [were] conversations before the game. He was out there and I was talking to some of the guys, I said, 'How'd we let this guy get away?' I thought he pitched pretty good for us [from what] I saw and then he's been kind of an invaluable set-up man for Tampa Bay. And one thing led to another and I got probably more information than I really needed. I don't know, the left-hander put us down 1-2-3, so it was probably a bad move."
"It's hard enough to hit," Johnson concluded, "I've had'em check when a guy cut it loose and it looked like half his mouth came to home plate. Now that they're checking them, they didn't used to check them when I played. But, it didn't help much."
• St. Petersburg Times' writer Marc Tompkin (@TBTimes_Rays) tweeted Joe Maddon's side of the post game conversation:
#Rays Maddon said it was a "cowardly" move - among other things - by Nats manager Johnson to have Peralta singled out like that— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 20, 2012
#Rays Maddon also said it is "common practice" for pitchers to have pine tar on their gloves, + he was upset Peralta would be villified— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 20, 2012
• You can check out Washington Post writer James Wagner's Twitter account @JamesWagnerWP for some of the other quotes from Mr. Maddon, and the WaPost writer also got a great quote from Joel Peralta that summed things up from the Rays' perspective:
Peralta admits to tipping cap to the Nats dugout upon leaving: "Good for them. They still lose the game."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 20, 2012
• Another Flashback:
"Umpires investigated, [Brendan] Donnelly was ejected, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia told [Frank] Robinson he was going to have all the Nationals pitchers undressed. Robinson responded by getting in Scioscia's face, the glove in question was confiscated, the benches and bullpens cleared, and Guillen -- the Nationals right fielder and erstwhile Angel, who left Anaheim under controversial circumstances -- appeared to snap."