CLEVELAND: On this date last year, Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta was batting .263 with 16 home runs and 50 RBI.
Today, Indians third baseman Jhonny Peralta is batting .256 with six homers and 39 RBI.
This is one and the same person, of course, which makes it more difficult to explain the disparity in the numbers. The switch of positions doesn't really account for the slump, because Peralta has been the regular third baseman for only five weeks, and he has underachieved at the plate virtually the entire season.
"I don't think it has affected my hitting,'' he said. "If I can play one position, it might be better for me at the plate, but I don't think it bothers me that much.''
Peralta admits that he prefers shortstop, but if third base is where manager Eric Wedge puts him, then a third baseman he is.
"It's OK,'' Peralta said. "When I started to play there, it felt weird. Now it's a little better. I made some adjustments.'
Peralta prepped at third over the winter, but when the season began he was playing short and newly acquired Mark DeRosa was at third. When DeRosa was traded to the Cardinals near the end of June, Peralta had already been moved to third.
So does that mean he will be the everyday third baseman next year? If Columbus third baseman Wes Hodges hadn't missed half the season with an injury, he probably would be a candidate to compete for the big-league job next spring. However, he might have lost too much development time to contend for the position that soon.
"I think it will be OK,'' said Peralta, when asked if he was on board to play third in 2010. "I know what I can do now. But I played shortstop all my life. It's easier for me. But if I have to move to third, that's what I have to do.''
Because a third baseman plays much closer to the plate than a shortstop, it presents a new challenge for Peralta.
"The ball gets to me quick,'' he said. ""I don't have much time to react. Whatever happens, happens. I think it's easier to make an error at third, because sometimes you don't catch the ball. But I also don't have to go side to side as much as shortstop.''
One thing that most observers might have missed is this: "Some people say I have the body for third,'' Peralta said, "that I look better at third.''
That might be something for Wedge to think about.
WESTBROOK UPDATE -- Jake Westbrook threw a 20-pitch sumulated game Sunday and reported no ill effects.
He will throw more pitches in his next simulated game on Friday.
"We'll see where he's at after that,'' Wedge said. ""He's not far from going out and pitching.''
Westbrook, coming off Tommy John surgery, got to this point several weeks ago but experienced soreness in his right elbow and was forced to shut down for a couple of weeks then restart his throwing program almost from scratch.
The Indians' timetable is for him to return to the active roster and the rotation by early August.
KOBAYASHI IS HISTORY -- The Indians quietly released Masa Kobayashi over the weekend after he posted a 2-2 record with one save (in three chances) and a 4.66 earned-run average in 18 appearances since being demoted to Columbus May 18.
Before he was outrighted to Triple-A, Kobayashi compiled an 8.38 ERA in 10 games (92/3 IP) with the Tribe.
Kobayashi was in the last season of a two-year, $6 million guaranteed contract and will receive the remainder of his money, about $1.3 million.
FARM FACTS -- Stephen Head went 4-for-4 with one RBI, and Andy Marte doubled and hit his 14th homer, driving in three runs, as Columbus beat Syracuse 6-3...Russell Young (2-5, 4.25 ERA) gave up two runs and four hits in 62/3 innings, as Kinston lost to Potomac 2-1... Nate Recknagel hit his ninth home run of the year and singled, driving in three runs, but Lake County lost 9-7 to Greenville. Donnie Webb had three hits, including a triple... Preston Guilmet gave up one run in seven innings, as Mahoning Valley defeated Oneonta 3-2... Jesus Brito had a double and two singles plus two RBI, as the Arizona League Indians routed the Athletics 11-1. Argenis Martinez had three hits and one RBI. Brito raised his average to .364, Martinez to .383.