Rockies right-hander Daniel Bard and Royals catcher Salvador Perez were named the recipients of the 2020 National League and American League Comeback Player of the Year Awards, respectively, by Major League Baseball on Thursday.
For Perez, the honor comes one day after the six-time All-Star was selected to the All-MLB First Team. Perez not only sat out the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he also missed the start of Summer Camp in July -- after testing positive for COVID-19 -- and another three weeks during the season because of a lingering eye issue that caused blurred vision.
Despite all of that, the 30-year-old backstop managed to post career highs in batting average (.333), slugging percentage (.633) and OPS (.986), while racking up 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 37 games. Perez also won his third career Silver Slugger Award earlier this offseason.
"This award is about hard work and gratitude to all the people who helped to get me back on the field," Perez said on MLB Network. "I want to thank my family first for all the support they give me, and the training staff."
Bard, meanwhile, completed a miraculous comeback journey by returning to the big leagues after a six-year hiatus.
A former lights-out reliever who pitched to a 1.93 ERA over 73 appearances in 2010, Bard began dealing with injuries and mechanical issues during the '12 season. He made only two MLB appearances in '13, instead pitching primarily in the Minors, where he would spend the next several years trying to move past a severe case of the yips.
Bard ultimately retired in 2017 and spent the next two seasons working as a player mentor for the D-backs. He was planning to remain in that role for a third season until deciding before Spring Training to embark on an improbable comeback run.
"It's more than I ever anticipated when I made the decision to play again. It was not an easy decision being retired two years and really having moved on to a different career," Bard said. "It's something my wife and I talked about, and she supported me in it. I knew I was throwing the ball well, but I was hoping to get one more game in the big leagues -- one more pitch -- and it turned out to be a lot more than that. So I'm just extremely grateful."
The 35-year-old righty not only returned to the big leagues this season as a member of the Rockies' Opening Day roster, but he did so in style, earning the win in a scoreless relief outing in his July 25 season debut. Bard held the opposition scoreless in 14 of his 23 appearances en route to finishing 4-2 with six saves and a 3.65 ERA.
"It was just the ability to let go and have fun again. I had put so much pressure on myself to get back to that high level that I had pitched at," Bard said. "I think I had to retire. I retired for two years, and I think that was the only thing that allowed me to move on in my own mind and just have the freedom to have fun on the field and throw the baseball the way I'm capable of."
Bard is the second Rockies player to win the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, joining fellow reliever Greg Holland, who earned the award in 2017. The Royals' only other winner prior to Perez also came in '17, when Mike Moustakas captured the AL Comeback Player of the Year honor.
The Comeback Player of the Year Awards, given annually in each league since 2005, are selected from an original list of 30 candidates (one from each team) by MLB.com's 30 club beat reporters.