Cleveland backstop Roberto Pérez was hoping to finally have a completely healthy season after battling through injuries the last two years, but now he’s facing his first bump in the road.
The last time the Indians were in Chicago, Pérez had a scary moment when he was expecting a fastball from reliever James Karinchak, but as he was coming up out of his squat to catch what he thought was a high heater, the ball severely broke down towards his thigh. He reacted in time to still make the catch, but the ball clipped his right ring finger and prompted the training staff to come evaluate him.
Pérez remained in the game, but later that night, he told local media via Zoom that he immediately thought it was broken. But he was checked out by the training staff and manager Terry Francona checked with him the next morning and Pérez was determined to get back in the lineup. But it turns out his first instinct was correct, as he has a fracture in his finger.
“About a week ago it was bothering him one night in Cleveland,” Francona said. “They got him checked out. He's got a small, non-displaced fracture in the ring finger of his throwing hand. … All parties determined that he could play through it. But that giving him an extra day. … I should have gave him an extra day on Friday, but Bieber was pitching. So, we'll give him one today and, hopefully, he'll be back in there tomorrow.”
Pérez has proven that nagging injuries won’t prevent him from getting in the lineup. In his first season as Cleveland’s full-time catcher in 2019, he played through bone spurs in his ankle all year long. In 2020, he had a short stint on the injured list due to a right shoulder strain, which lingered with him all season after an awkward throw caused the injury on Opening Day.
Since his most recent ailment, which occurred on April 13, Pérez has watched his batting average drop from .238 to .143, going just 4-for-38 in that span, which Francona thinks could’ve been a result – at least partially – from his injury.
“I don't think it helps,” Francona said. “Especially when it's cold. But he's a tough kid and he wants to play through it. The hope is that as we get a week or 10 days into it, it kind of resolves itself.”
Eddie gets a day
After seeing Eddie Rosario’s name in the lineup for each game of the young season so far, it’s easy for suspicion to be raised when he’s not penciled in at left field. But Francona is trying to take advantage of the versatility Daniel Johnson brings in order to give Rosario somewhat of an off-day as a designated hitter.
“I just thought since we're playing DJ and Franmil [Reyes] is not here, we gave [Josh] Naylor a day yesterday,” Francona said. “Eddie's played in every game. Just get him a day where we keep his bat in the lineup and get him off his feet for a day. Thought it would be good for him.”
Tito’s message to McKenzie
The Indians were prepared for some growing pains from their young roster, including their rotation. Triston McKenzie entered the year having just 33 1/3 innings pitched at the big league level, which were also the only innings he’d thrown since August 2018 at any level due to injuries. But of all pitchers who have worked at least 15 frames this year, McKenzie owns the second-highest walks-per-nine-innings ratio (8.68) behind Pittsburgh’s Chad Kuhl (9.19).
So, what can he do to right the ship?
“It would be the easy answer to say, 'Throw strikes,'” Francona said. “For whatever reason he hasn't commanded as well as he will. When we're talking about, whether it's a young pitcher or player, it's not always perfect. We know that. There's going to be hiccups. And I told him yesterday, 'Just learn from it. Making a mistake isn't the worst thing, or having a bad game. But just make sure you learn from it and move on and try to be better.' And I think he's pretty conscientious about that.”