TORONTO -- The Royals didn’t take on-field batting practice prior to Saturday’s game, which theoretically gave players more time to hang out and do their own thing.
But when manager Mike Matheny walked by the trainer’s room, he saw Salvador Perez inside stretching out and getting prepared. Perez takes every opportunity to keep himself in game shape, which Matheny said is a testament to his discipline.
“As soon as you walk off the field, you’re doing something to prepare you for the next day,” Matheny said. “It’s a discipline and a commitment that he’s figured out what it looks like … It’s very rare, and that’s why I think he’s gonna be in conversation to be one of the greatest that’s played this game behind the plate.”
On Saturday, Perez became the fourth Royal this season to hit the 10-year service time milestone, joining Danny Duffy (who was traded to the Dodgers on Thursday), Mike Minor and Jarrod Dyson. The 10-year mark unlocks a player’s full post-career pension, and it grants some players a full no-trade clause -- called 10-and-5 Rights, for players who’ve spent the past five-plus years with the same team.
But there’s also a sense of prestige that comes with a decade in the Majors: Fewer than 10 percent of big leaguers make it that far. For Perez, who as a catcher plays the most physically demanding position, accomplishing that feat is even more impressive.
“He’s been able to handle the demands of being behind the plate, doing it for as long as he has and continuing to get better,” said Matheny, a former catcher of 13 years. “That’s really a surprising spot of being able to take the beating that his body’s taken and still figure out ways to become better behind the plate.”
That’s right, Perez is still getting better as the years go on. He was an All-Star this season -- his seventh career selection -- and he’s finding new heights as a home run hitter. Perez homered three days in a row from Wednesday to Friday, bringing his season total to 26. He’s one shy of matching his career best (set in 2017 and 2018), and he has two months to beat it.
Perez is still a force defensively, too. His 37.9 percent caught-stealing rate (11-for-29) ranks first in the American League.
“Overall, when you look at bat, glove, arm, what he can do, it’s kind of Salvy and everybody else in my opinion,” second baseman Whit Merrifield said. “He’s still young. It’s crazy that he hit his 10 years already because he’s still young.”
Perez was 16 when he signed with the Royals as a Venezuelan amateur in 2006. He’s 31 now, and there’s no evidence that he’s ready to slow down. Kansas City sure doesn’t think so, anyway, as the team signed the 2015 World Series MVP to a four-year, $82 million extension in March that’ll keep him in town through 2025.
If he stays healthy and productive, that’ll give Perez plenty more time to build on a legacy that’s already studded with accolades, including five Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what his future is gonna look like, because he’s gonna go down as one of the best catchers of all time,” Merrifield said. “And I’m excited to be along for the ride to watch it happen.”