Perez, Plawecki aim to be Tribe's top catcher

February 12th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When catcher was traded to the Nationals at the end of November, the door was left wide open for to step into his first starting role behind the dish, but a trade for backstop in January leaves the Indians with a decision to make this spring.

Pitchers and catchers officially reported to the Tribe's Spring Training facility on Tuesday, and while some players with guaranteed roster spots such as , or can use the time in camp to simply prepare for the 2019 season, others like Perez and Plawecki have a job to compete for.

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"Like I always say, now the opportunity is there," Perez said. "I'm going to try to take advantage of the opportunity and do my job. Don't try to put a lot of pressure on myself. I think Yan was a huge part of our team and he really did a good job in the years he was here. Now, I'm just trying to have fun and get to know all the new guys. So, I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and hopefully I do well."

Perez has a slight home-field advantage entering camp, having spent all five of his Major League seasons with the Indians. With the opportunity knocking, he took it upon himself to get some extra work over the offseason, playing 24 games with the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican League, where he hit .333 with 11 RBIs in 69 at-bats. In 2018, Perez slashed .168/.256/.263 with nine doubles, two homers and 19 RBIs in his 62 games. Although the starting position is up for grabs, Perez said he doesn't feel any additional pressure.

"I've been in this situation before," Perez said. "I love pressure and I just try to simplify things. and try to not get caught up on what I can't do. It's a big task. I've never played every day. I don't think I've played more than [73] games or something like that. I'm just very excited. I'm excited for the opportunity and I'm going to take advantage of it."

Plawecki's offseason was a bit different, beginning his offseason with the Mets before being acquired by the Indians on Jan. 6. New York selected Plawecki in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, and he has made a handful of appearances for their big league club over the previous four seasons.

"It's definitely different, definitely an adjustment, definitely a change, but it's obviously part of the game as well," Plawecki said. "It's my first time being traded. I was with New York for seven years and knew all those faces and everybody, and their families really well, but I'm looking forward to meeting all these guys and getting to know them more. I'm really excited to be here and be with this club."

Similar to Perez, Plawecki has yet to play in at least 80 games in a season. Last year, he hit .210 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 79 games, and he was one of just two catchers in baseball who worked over 500 innings (589 2/3) behind the plate without allowing a passed ball. Plawecki said there has been no conversation regarding who is favored to be the Tribe's starter, but he's looking forward to just enjoying the process.

"It's putting the spikes on and going to work and whatever happens, happens," Plawecki said. "If you start putting pressure on yourself, bad things tend to happen. I've learned a lot in this game, and I've learned that you can't control a whole lot, but you can control what you do. That's my mindset. That's how I'll kind of approach things moving forward."

They may be competing for the same spot, but Perez and Plawecki mentioned how good of a relationship the two have already created as new teammates, and they both certainly agreed on one thing: The club's starting rotation is elite.

"I think that's our strength," Perez said. "I know we lost some pieces, but we are still going to depend on our pitching. It's nice to see them. No one went anywhere. It's still intact. I'm looking forward to working with them."

"We have an unbelievable staff here and I'm really excited to get to know them and work with them," Plawecki said. "Pitching wins a lot of games, and when you have guys like that on the mound each and every day, every five days you have a guy on the mound who gives you a really good chance to win it. It's a lot of fun, especially with my job."