Perez, on road to 40 HRs, scratched vs. Cubs

August 21st, 2021

CHICAGO -- was a late scratch from the Royals' lineup Saturday afternoon. Manager Mike Matheny had originally penciled Perez in to catch and bat third against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, but a lingering headache from Friday’s game pushed Perez out of the batting order.

Perez hit two home runs in the 6-2 win over Chicago in the series opener, but he left the game in the eighth inning with a headache. In the bottom of the sixth, Ian Happ fouled back a 3-2 pitch that ricocheted off of the top of Perez’s helmet, but he remained in the game until his spot in the order came up in the eighth inning.

“The ball to my head was kind of hard,” Perez said.

Despite getting banged up behind the plate Friday, Perez came to the ballpark the next day ready to play. Perez said that he felt good Saturday, but he planned to test how his headache felt during pregame activity and see if it improved in time for him to play, which it did not.

“I just love to play baseball,” Perez said. “If I don’t play, I don’t do anything to help my team to win. At least I have the opportunity in the lineup. I like to compete, that’s the way that I am.”

He had also suffered a minor injury to his left index finger when Happ’s back swing made contact with Perez’s hand in the first inning.

“It’s part of being behind home plate,” Perez said before being scratched from Saturday’s lineup. “We’re allowed to get hit every pitch.”

Perez’s pair of homers Friday brought his season total to 32. He leads the Royals with 80 RBIs, but the pressure to produce isn’t something that Perez feels.

“I don’t put myself in the position that, ‘You have to do it, you have to do it.’ I just try to do my best,” Perez said.

Perez would be the first catcher in Royals history to hit 40 home runs in a season, if he accomplishes the feat. Perez would also join elite company; other catchers who have hit at least 40 homers in a season include the likes of Johnny Bench and Roy Campanella.

Perez’s first home run Friday showed off his golf swing. He reached down for a low changeup and sent it into the bleachers in center field. Perez's ability to reach that far out of the zone and still hit for power has drawn comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero Sr.

Matheny, who played against Guerrero as a catcher, got an up-close look at his ability to connect on pitches far out of the zone.

“You make mistakes on the plate, and Vlad would make you pay just like Salvy,” Matheny said. “I think there’s some similarities there.”

Matheny knows all too well the sinking feeling when even a well-executed pitch doesn’t make it into the catcher’s mitt.

“You never know what pitch might end up burning you,” Matheny said. “I remember being the guy that gave the suggestion behind the plate and then [watched] it jump out of the yard. That’s a bad feeling.”

Perez has already bested his previous single-season home run record by five, but with over 40 games left to play this season, he has his sights set on more home runs than just 40.

“Hopefully I can get 50,” Perez joked Saturday.