Jhonny Peralta wants to prove that he can “play baseball naturally”

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On August 5 last season as a member of the Tigers, shortstop Jhonny Peralta accepted a 50-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis. He returned for the final three games of the regular season, then joined the Tigers in the post-season against the Athletics in the ALDS and the Red Sox in the ALCS.

Peralta became a free agent after the season. His offensive output in 2011 (.824 OPS) and ’13 (.815) was rewarded with a four-year, $52 million contract with the NL champion Cardinals. GM John Mozeliak was willing to look past Peralta’s history with PED use.

As David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat reports, Peralta is motivated to prove that he can be a productive player for the Cardinals without using performance-enhancing substances.

“I’m trying to put it in the past,” Peralta said. “I’m trying to look forward and forget about it. … I know I can play baseball naturally. I have to show people that I can do it and that I can help.

“I’m going to try to do the best I can do and try to help the Cardinals go to the World Series one more time and win.”

The Cardinals badly needed an upgrade at shortstop, as they finished 2013 with the third-lowest OPS from the position in the National League at .583, ahead of only the Marlins and Mets. Pete Kozma, who got most of the playing time at shortstop for the Cardinals, posted a .548 OPS while Daniel Descalso wasn’t much better at .656.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.