Salvy scratched with non-COVID illness

August 7th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- The Royals didn't have their starting catcher in the lineup for the series opener against the Cardinals on Friday night, but the club is optimistic it won’t be without him for long.

was scratched due to a non-Covid-related illness. The All-Star catcher woke up feeling sick Friday, and because of coronavirus protocols, he was instructed to stay back at the hotel even though he tested negative.

Manager Mike Matheny said that the club hopes it’ll just be one or two days away for Perez, but how he feels each day, as well as the necessary team and league protocols, will dictate his timetable to return. Perez had a goal of playing all 162 games this season, either at catcher or designated hitter, but that streak came to an end after 107 games.

“He was fighting to be in there today, regardless of what our medical professionals say, which is not surprising at all,” Matheny said. “But some things are just out of our hands from a baseball perspective.”

Backup catcher Cam Gallagher slotted in behind the plate and eighth in the lineup, with Matheny moving shortstop Nicky Lopez up to the No. 2 hole. Part of the reason is because lefty Mike Minor hit ninth in a National League park, while Perez’s absence also made the Royals shift the middle of their order around. Carlos Santana hit third -- Perez's typical spot -- and Ryan O’Hearn fourth.

Lopez has often acted like another leadoff man with his .278 average and .353 on-base percentage. The hope is that he and leadoff man Whit Merrifield will be able to get on for Santana, O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier.

“Just trying to fill up a spot that we haven’t had to fill all season in the middle,” Matheny said. “We’ve talked about Nicky taking the kind of at-bats where we could put him anywhere we needed to. Wasn’t looking to make that move unless we needed to, and when you have a piece like Salvy that’s not in, we need somebody to jump in.”

I-70 rivalry

It might not be as high profile as the Cardinals-Cubs or Yankees-Red Sox rivalries, but there’s no question that St. Louis and Kansas City have a rival atmosphere surrounding the series they play every year, Matheny adamantly said Friday. The cross-state teams have a home-and-home series every season, with this weekend’s matchup at Busch Stadium followed by next weekend at Kauffman Stadium.

Matheny has now been on both sides as a player and a manager for the Cardinals, and now as the manager of the Royals.

“I don’t know how you couldn’t,” Matheny said about considering it a rivalry. “No matter where you were on the other side, you could always tell in Kansas City -- you’d have a lot of red in the stands. It was an intense atmosphere. Since coming over and putting this jersey on, people have been very clear: It’s a rivalry. There’s some disdain on both sides. That’s what makes that rivalry, is people enjoy the competition and people enjoy disliking the other side. That’s usually what makes for a better atmosphere.”

The Royals have a number of connections to the Cardinals, starting with Matheny’s history in St. Louis. Royals hitting coach Terry Bradshaw played in 34 games over two seasons for the Cardinals (1995-96) after being selected by the club in the ninth round of the 1990 Draft. Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred pitched for the Cardinals from 2003-05 and served as the special assistant to the general manager from 2013-15. Coach John Mabry was the Cardinals' hitting coach from 2013-18 and assistant hitting coach in 2012. Coach Tony Peña Jr. is the son of former Cardinals All-Star catcher Tony Peña (1987-89).

Paige’s Hall of Fame plaque to come to KC

In partnership with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Negro League Baseball Museum, the Royals announced Friday that Satchel Paige’s Hall of Fame plaque will be brought from Cooperstown to Kansas City next week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the iconic pitcher’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

The commemoration will begin on Monday in a pregame ceremony at Kauffman Stadium, which will include members of the Paige family on field before the Royals host the Yankees. The plaque will be moved to the Royals' Hall of Fame in the stadium where all fans will be able to view it during the game.

On Tuesday, the plaque will be on display at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Paige was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971 as the first electee selected from the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues after a legendary career. He played for many teams, but is often connected to Kansas City for his time with the Monarchs.