Tribe fans seemingly lost their minds, in the offseason, when Yan Gomes was traded to the Washington Nationals. The beloved All-Star catcher was well known for his defensive skills. The phrase “Don’t run on Yan” was born due to the All-Star’s stellar ability to throw out would-be- base stealers.
The door opened for 30-year-old Roberto Perez to earn the starting catcher position for the Indians. He had only appeared in 62 games in 2018. Perez promised he was “going to prove some people wrong” and he began his focus to do just that. He played Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic where many teams send injured players or prospects for seasoning. Perez was there for a different goal – to put in the work it would take to be an elite pitcher.
“Handling pitchers, controlling the running game, blocking balls in the dirt were always something Perez did best” said Indians skipper Terry Francona. “However, offense is where Perez struggled.”Terry Francona
With more appearances at the plate, Perez has flourished. He has a career-high 21 home runs this season, which he had only had a total of 21 home runs in his entire MLB career. He’s also contributing 6.5 blocking runs to the Indians, which is the highest in the league.
He’s becoming even more of an asset to the young pitchers. Due to injuries, the Tribe has turned to several rookie arms to fill in the rotation. His ability to work with these pitchers was showcased in Aaron Civale’s first start in Yankee Stadium.
Civale described the intimidating feeling of pitching in the iconic ballpark and Perez’s impact on his outing. When asked how Civale dealt with his nerves he said Perez “gave him confidence, allowing him to stick to the game plan” citing that Perez “does a lot of the thinking for him with game prep.”
Perez has taken on a majority of the workload with catching. The wear and tear that come with playing the toughest position on the diamond can’t be overlooked. Perez had shown physical and mental strength and is having the best season of his career. While, on the flip side, Gomes is struggling with the Nationals. He’s batting a career-low .217 with six home runs and 30 RBI.
Perez was prepared when that door opened for him in spring training and he certainly didn’t look in the rear-view mirror. He has been one of the many bright spots on the Indians team whose roster was significantly different at the beginning of this season. He had big shoes to fill in replacing Gomes and he has risen to the occasion. Perez promised to prove a lot of people wrong and with the season winding down it’s safe to say he’s done just that as the starter.