CLEVELAND -- Could Indians catcher Roberto Pérez’s fractured finger be a sign that the team is preparing for a similar season to 2016?
In early May 2016, Pérez had a thumb injury that required surgery, which means he is all too familiar with his current situation. Almost five years later to the day, Pérez underwent surgery to repair his fractured ring finger on his right hand. When he returned in ‘16, the team had a pretty magical run for the rest of the season. And the similarities between the two seasons run deeper for Pérez than just his injuries.
“It was a fun year and I feel like 2021, it seems like 2016 where, like, guys are having fun, have a great pitching staff,” Pérez said. “It feels like that -- the atmosphere, the clubhouse, the vibes. All I want for them is to go out and keep playing the game the right way and have fun the way they’ve been having fun. It’s a long year, but right now, it seems that everything is working, our pitching staff is getting there, we’re getting timely hits. So hopefully we keep doing that and we’ll be fine.”
Pérez is hoping that COVID-19 protocols will allow him to travel and be around his teammate while he rehabs from his surgery. He had the procedure on Friday after getting crossed up on a pitch from James Karinchak on April 13 against the White Sox in Chicago. When Pérez was expecting a heater, the ball broke and clipped Pérez’s finger as he tried to react to the unexpected break. He certainly knew the finger hurt and saw that there was swelling, but he wasn’t initially thinking surgery would be required.
“To be honest, I thought I was gonna get rested. At least give it a couple of weeks to see if the swelling went down,” Pérez said. “I really didn’t think that I would need surgery. But when we got the second X-ray, that’s when we figured surgery was the best option. I didn’t want to wait around. … I think that was the best option available, and hopefully [I can] come back in eight weeks.”
Pérez attempted to play 11 more games after sustaining the injury. Although he continued to get hit with foul tips behind the plate, it was holding a bat that caused him the most trouble. After fracturing his finger, he went just 3-for-40 (.075) with a homer, a double and 19 strikeouts.
“I’m a warrior,” Pérez said. “I always find a way to stay on the field and be back there for these guys. But I just kept playing and sometimes swinging the bat -- it was more swinging the bat than it was throwing. And then that’s when we found out like a week or two later that it was cracked.”
Pérez now needs to bury any feelings of frustration to focus on getting himself back to full strength. Not only has he had experience with this situation in 2016, but he also hasn’t had a completely healthy season since he took over full-time catching duties in ’19, when he played through bone spurs in his right ankle. Then, in ’20, he battled through a right shoulder strain that landed him on the injured list. And just when he was hoping to finally have a healthy season, a freak play caused him to get sidelined for eight to 10 weeks once again.
“I would say it’s frustrating, at least for me,” Pérez said. “Especially this year, because I put a lot of work in the offseason to be in great shape and I felt really good coming into Spring Training. I was healthy. But at the same time, I got to use that as a motivation. … I don’t have much to say. All I can say is I’m gonna work as hard as I can to come back as soon as possible and keep helping my team win any way I can.”