October grinder: Salvy sports tools of endurance
When the postseason began, one of the questions raised about the Royals was the workload of catcher Salvador Perez, and whether the team would be able to go easy on him, even a little.
Three weeks later, we have the answer: No. Definitively, unequivocally, beyond a shadow of a doubt, no.
The other question was whether Perez would wear down from all of the extra games while playing the most demanding position on the field. That answer, entering Game 3 of the World Series against the Mets on Friday in New York (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time), appears to be another 'No.' And that's rather astounding, given how taxing this month has been on his body behind the plate.
A quick look at Perez, by the numbers:
Postseason games: 13. At-bats: 46. Hits: 10. Home runs: four.
Foul tips off the face mask, off the throat, off the chest protector: Dozens.
It would be difficult to count each time Perez has been nicked, dinged, roughed up and generally abused while fielding his position this month, but when asked about it, he brushes off the concerns as no big deal.
"I feel great," Perez said the day before the World Series began. "Couple of days off, I got some rest, sat in the hot tub, talked to my trainer, and I'm ready for tomorrow. I feel a lot better."
When Perez says it, it's easy to believe him, especially when he's in typical "Salvy" mode -- talkative and jovial, seemingly free of any burdens. But that doesn't stop this particular line of questioning. If Perez is in front of reporters, he's rarely asked to talk about anything except the poundings he's taking behind the plate.
"Every game, I just know I'm going to take one foul ball," he said. "I get ready for that hit, and I'm fine."
Perez does indeed prevail, staying in games even when it looks like he might not be so fine. Take, for example, a game during the American League Championship Series, when he was spotted in the dugout receiving what looked to be smelling salts. An inning later, Perez singled.
At this point, nothing surprises Royals manager Ned Yost when it comes to his Teflon-tough catcher.
"There's times that you'll get foul balls off your shoulder, off your collarbone, off your mask, really shake you, really hurt," Yost said. "But it's a position where you've got to shake that stuff off. You've got to just kind of know it's part of the position. You're blocking balls off your thumbs, off your arms. It's just a tough, tough position.
"But Sal is suited perfectly for it. He's a big guy, he's extremely tough and he can take a beating."
Perez has been examined from every angle by reporters this month, and his size has indeed come into question. He is a big man -- 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. This can be a good thing when it comes to blocking the plate. But a bigger body also means a bigger target and, possibly, more contact with people and objects that can cause pain.
Still, Perez brushes that notion off with a shrug. After all, fretting about something he can't control, like size, doesn't make a lot of sense. Perez learned that from 6-foot-5 Sandy Alomar Jr., who logged 20 big leagues seasons behind the plate.
"Alomar told me, 'Sal, we can do nothing about that. You're going to get hit, no matter what,'" Perez said. "We're tough. We are big guys. I think it's more easy to get hit than the little guys."
The Royals, two wins away from a World Series title, can credit any number of players for why they've gotten this far, and done it so convincingly. It's fair to say navigating through October would be virtually impossible without Perez, a three-time All-Star and winner of two Gold Glove Awards who is equal parts clubhouse clown and impenetrable field leader.
Perez's value to his teammates is unquestioned.
"He's a warrior out there, and he's tough," Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. "He's been taking a beating all year long, but he's built for it.
"I couldn't do it. But he's a tough guy, he's been a rock behind that plate for us the last few years. He just goes out there, focuses and gets it done each and every day."