Perez plays his 1,000th game with the Royals

Catcher exits in 6th inning after jamming right thumb on tag

April 27th, 2021

The season is still young, but has already reached two big milestones in 2021. The first came on April 13 against the Angels, when Perez knocked his 1,000th hit as a Royal. The second came Monday, when he played his 1,000th career game.

All 1,000 games have been with the Royals, and he became the 13th player in franchise history to reach that milestone.

“The longevity in this game amazes me,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “What guys have to endure, and then take that to another level in my mind when it comes to that position. I still see him as a young player, only because I believe he’s got a lot ahead of him. I was able to congratulate him this morning, and I know it means a lot to every one of our guys.”

Perez launched a double in his first at-bat Monday against Tigers righty Spencer Turnbull. He left the game in the sixth, though, after jamming his right thumb when applying a tag on a play at the plate. Shortstop Nicky Lopez made the right play on a ground ball with a runner on third, but he rushed the throw home and Perez scrambled to make the tag on Miguel Cabrera. He stayed in at the time, but left three innings later so trainers could get a better look at his thumb.

Matheny was optimistic that Perez would be day to day.

“Unfortunately, as he applied the tag, it just pushed his thumb back a little bit,” Matheny said. “We got everything looked at, and they believe this is going to be a day to day thing and he should be fine. Just needed to get him out so we could get a better look.”

Anyone who knows Perez can be sure he’ll be itching to get back in for his 1,001st game as quickly as possible without pushing his health. Perez, 30, is one of six active catchers to achieve this mark, joining Yadier Molina (2,043 entering Monday), Kurt Suzuki (1,523), Buster Posey (1,272), Jonathan Lucroy (1,208) and Alex Avila (1,022).

“You feel like [Perez has] been in the league 30 years,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, also a former catcher, said. “He is a stable part of some good teams that have been over there. You go back to their World Series teams and he's right there in the middle of it. And he's still hitting in the middle of the order.

“He's a tremendous human. I have a lot of respect for how he goes about it and what he squeezes out of pitching staffs every year and how he's maintained a pretty consistent approach to the game whenever they've had good teams. It's fun to be on good teams, but he's also been able to navigate them through a mini-rebuild that they've been going through the last couple of years, and still has a smile on his face and still competes at a high level.”

Brentz’s buildup
Reliever Jake Brentz pitched a career-high two innings Sunday, another building block for the role the Royals see the rookie lefty having this season. He allowed one hit and struck out three with no walks. He was prepared for whatever Matheny needed of him, and getting through two innings showed the Royals more of what he can do this season out of the ‘pen.

“I just see what we were hoping to see, which is building blocks of confidence,” Matheny said. “Yesterday was a push, and he responded so well. That was a building block to even potentially using him even in different ways, to where you can see a three-inning outing to finish a game, once you start to get him built up a little bit, like that with having two ups.”

Brentz has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings (11 games) this year. Along with 10 strikeouts compared to three walks, he is holding opponents to a .194 average. He’s been a weapon out of a ‘pen that didn’t have a consistent lefty at all last year, and he’s shown he can get out right-handers, too, with five strikeouts against them.

Soler getting used to right field
Early in Spring Training, Jorge Soler made it clear to Matheny that he wanted to be considered part of the Royals’ outfield group, despite his main responsibility as the designated hitter. The slugger has dedicated time in the outfield during pregame drills to stay sharp. Since Kyle Isbel was optioned late last week, Soler has seen more time in right field.

In the second inning of Sunday’s game, Jeimer Candelario lined a single into the right-center gap that looked like it could go for extra bases based on where Soler and center fielder Michael A. Taylor were positioned. But Soler backhanded the ball as it rolled through the grass and made an off-balance but accurate throw to second base, causing Candelario to get back to first base. Shortstop and cutoff man Nicky Lopez almost threw Candelario out at first.

“When we had our staff meeting this morning, that was the first thing I brought up to [first-base and outfield coach] Rusty [Kuntz],” Matheny said. “The conversation after that is how can we get an even better position to where we can make a move from the cutoff position to end up getting an out there. But what Jorge has done so far has been a product of the effort that he’s putting into the work that he’s doing. He’s been doing that all season.

“And what we’re watching right now is the fact that Jorge takes that very seriously. He’s done a great job preparing for this opportunity, and it’s fun to watch him now come out and make the plays.”

Worth noting

• Hunter Dozier’s home run swing Sunday afternoon was a much-needed result for the slugger in the early part of the season. He’s hitting .130 entering Monday but has been hitting the ball hard all over the place -- just without the results to match. Against Matthew Boyd on Saturday, for example, Dozier hit flyouts with exit velocities of 103.9 mph and 102.6 mph. A groundout on Wednesday against the Rays was 102.3 mph.

“That’s exactly what you have to do, trust the process,” Dozier said. “And that’s something I’ve always harped on over the past few years, not really worrying about the results. At least trying not to. It gets frustrating, for sure. But you just [have] to stay focused on the process, not worrying about the results and know the results will come.”

• Starters Jakob Junis and Mike Minor will be the first Royals pitchers to hit this season when the Royals head to Pittsburgh for a two-game interleague series on Tuesday. They’ve been getting swings in since the last homestand in preparation -- mostly bunts -- and making sure they’re mechanically sound before heading to the plate.

• The Royals announced after Monday’s game that right-hander Brad Brach cleared waivers and elected free agency after he was designated for assignment on Saturday.