CLEVELAND -- Indians catcher Roberto Pérez told manager Terry Francona multiple times throughout Summer Camp how great it felt to be completely healthy again. The Gold Glove Award-winning backstop played through bone spurs in his right ankle in 2019 and finally recovered for the ‘20 season. Now he’s heading to the injured list.
On Wednesday, the Tribe placed Pérez on the 10-day IL with a right shoulder strain. He underwent an MRI on Tuesday night, which revealed the strain, and will go seven days without throwing before he’s re-evaluated. The backstop will continue working out at the Indians’ alternate training site in Lake County to stay in shape.
“We have trainers over there, strength and conditioning guys,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “So he can stay in baseball shape. And whether it's two days, three days, four days -- whatever it ends up being where he can start to do some things with that arm -- he'll have access to that.”
Francona said that Pérez first started to feel soreness in his shoulder after slipping while throwing to first base in Friday’s game against the Royals. In the fourth inning, Indians starter Shane Bieber struck out Ryan McBroom on a pitch in the dirt that rolled under Pérez’s mitt.
As it bounced off the backstop, Pérez hustled to retrieve it while McBroom made his way down the first-base line. Just before Pérez threw the ball, he slipped and made the throw from the ground, which is when he first felt the tightness. He expected the pain to go away after a few games, but after Tuesday, he decided it had gone on too long.
After the first game of a doubleheader against the White Sox, the Indians called up catcher Beau Taylor from Lake County, optioned outfielder Daniel Johnson to make room on the 30-man roster and designated reliever James Hoyt for assignment to clear a space on the 40-man roster. Now that Pérez has moved to the injured list, the team recalled Johnson prior to Wednesday’s series finale against Chicago.
“It's tough, to say the least,” Bieber said. “Things could be worse, and we're excited to potentially get him back within a week or 10 days. I just told him, ‘Get healthy as quick as you can, and we can't wait to have you back.’”
The 31-year-old Pérez is in his second season as the Tribe’s full-time catcher after taking home the American League Gold Glove Award last year. Despite having bone spurs in his ankle that caused pain he described as a knife scraping against him, he was the only backstop in the Majors to catch over 100 innings without allowing a passed ball.
Pérez is hitting .100 (1-for-10) with six strikeouts, including an 0-for-4 showing on Tuesday. Sandy León will take over the starting duties while Pérez is out, and Taylor will be the team’s backup catcher.
“I feel like we have the depth and the catching core to definitely sustain our momentum right now,” Bieber said, “and we'll be definitely fine going forward. But obviously Roberto is one of the best in the game, if not the best, so it's a tough blow.”
Francona considered the idea of just carrying a catcher on his three-man taxi squad for the Tribe’s upcoming road trip to avoid having too many people traveling, but he’s now decided to add a pitcher as well. Taylor is now on the 30-man roster, so backstop Steve Baron, who the team acquired during Summer Camp, will serve as their taxi-squad catcher. Francona said lefty Logan Allen will also travel with the team for the six-game road trip.
Outfielder Tyler Naquin was placed on the 10-day IL on Saturday with a hairline fracture in his right big toe. Francona said that Naquin went to the Lake County training site on Tuesday to work out, but he didn’t feel 100 percent while running the bases.
“He’s still feeling it,” Francona said.
Outfielder Delino DeShields is still ramping up his baseball activities. He missed the first 10 days of Summer Camp due to testing positive for COVID-19 before reporting to Cleveland. Once he was cleared to rejoin his team, the Tribe wanted to make sure to take it slow with his progression. He’s now advanced to playing in simulated games each day at Lake County.