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Lindor, Pérez honored with Gold Glove Awards

@MandyBell02
November 4, 2019

CLEVELAND -- There was uncertainty when catcher Yan Gomes was traded to the Nationals. Not only were most unsure of who the Indians were getting in Jefry Rodriguez and Daniel Johnson, there was doubt that Roberto Pérez would be able to handle the role as the team’s everyday backstop. Pérez

CLEVELAND -- There was uncertainty when catcher Yan Gomes was traded to the Nationals. Not only were most unsure of who the Indians were getting in Jefry Rodriguez and Daniel Johnson, there was doubt that Roberto Pérez would be able to handle the role as the team’s everyday backstop.

Pérez was asked a handful of questions about his confidence, the opportunity at stake and his expectations back in January and, without hesitation, he said, “I’m going to prove some people wrong.” Now, he’s being recognized as the best defensive catcher in the American League.

On Sunday night, Pérez and shortstop Francisco Lindor were announced as the Indians’ recipients of the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. It was the first time since 2001 (shortstop Omar Vizquel, second baseman Roberto Alomar) that a pair of Indians captured the honors, as Pérez took home his first and Lindor earned his second.

“For me, it’s an honor,” Pérez said. “It’s something that I’m not taking for granted. I think that every day when I step out in the field, I would try to play as hard as I can and play the game the right way and I take a lot of pride in my defense. … But to be able to do it in my first full season playing every day, it’s something special.”

Sure, more people were concerned about Pérez’s bat entering the season, but even those who were confident in his defense could never have predicted the near-perfect season he’d have behind the dish.

Past AL Gold Glove Award winners

The 30-year-old compiled a franchise record .997 fielding percentage (three errors in 1,137 total chances) and did not record a passed ball in 118 games (993 2/3 innings). He was the only catcher in the Majors to catch over 100 games without a passed ball and is just the fourth backstop since at least 1930 to work a minimum of 118 games behind the plate without allowing one. The last catcher to do so was Johnny Bench in 1975.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Pérez said. “I’ve always said it to everybody. I’m a defensive guy first. I always try to get better, whether it’s my game calling, throwing guys out, footwork, receiving, blocking. I’m always talking to [first base and catching coach] Sandy Alomar [Jr.] because he knows me. When I don’t feel comfortable behind the plate, I go up to him and he always tries to fix it. … He’s an outstanding coach.”

Pérez’s plus-29 Defensive Runs Saved outpaced all other AL catchers by at least 17 runs and was the second-highest total by a catcher since Baseball Info Solutions began tracking the metric in 2003. He’s the third Indians backstop to bring home the Gold Glove hardware, joining Alomar (1990) and Ray Fosse (twice).

In a year where the Indians could not afford to lose another key starter to the injured list, Pérez fought through a pain described as “something poking me in there with a knife,” when an MRI in April revealed he was dealing with bone spurs in his ankle. He continued to catch the fourth-most innings in the Majors this past year.

“I was telling myself, 'Don’t quit,'” Pérez said. “'You waited for so long to play every day and now that you have the opportunity, you cannot go down like this.' I played through it. It hurt all year long, but I was doing anything I can to stay on the field.”

Pérez’s defensive year was so impressive that one of his closest friends on the team spent the final day of the regular season explaining why there was no chance anyone else could take this award away from him.

“No doubt. He’s winning it,” Lindor said. “If he doesn’t win the Gold Glove, then there’s something wrong with the system. And I know the system’s not wrong, so Pérez will win it.”

If there’s anyone on the Tribe who knows what to look for in a Gold Glove recipient, it’s Lindor, who earned the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award in the AL in ’16. This season, he earned his second Gold Glove Award after ranking second among AL shortstops in fielding percentage (.979) and DRS (plus-nine).

While Lindor took every opportunity he could to brag about his friend’s impressive numbers behind the plate, this season went far beyond Pérez’s ability to block balls. His defensive numbers may speak for themselves, however, the skills that don’t show up on paper are what kept the Indians afloat through all the injuries they had to overcome.

When Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco landed on the injured list and Trevor Bauer was traded to the Reds, Pérez helped assure nothing slipped through the cracks even when two rookies who began the year in Double-A became regulars in the starting five. No matter what setbacks they endured, Pérez led his staff to the third-best starting ERA in the American League (3.81). He also recorded an AL-best 40.8 percent caught stealing percentage, as Indians pitchers yielded the third-fewest stolen bases (53) in the Majors.

“I think, defensively, Roberto has always been a leader of our pitching staff,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “He’s extraordinary at leading a pitching staff. So we went in knowing that was a core strength of his and what he was able to do was, with consistent, regular at-bats, produce at offensive levels that he hadn’t yet done. He put together one of the best all-around seasons for a catcher, not only in the American League, but in baseball.”

As two of the AL's nine Gold Glove winners, Lindor and Pérez are now eligible for the Platinum Glove Award, which is given to the best defensive player from each league. Voting for the award, which was established in 2011, is open at Rawlings.com and will continue until 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday. The two league winners will be announced on Friday.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.