Op­por­tu­nity is here for Perez

Catcher wants to ‘prove the doubters wrong’ and be an every­day starter

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Schudel [email protected]­ald.com @JSProIn­sider on Twit­ter

In­di­ans catcher Roberto Perez is head­ing to spring train­ing in Goodyear, Ariz.,, next month with one mis­sion in mind.

In­di­ans catcher Roberto Perez is head­ing to spring train­ing in Goodyear, Ariz., next month with one mis­sion in mind.

“I want to prove the doubters wrong,” the 30-year-old Puerto Ri­can said in the In­di­ans’ club­house on Jan. 11.

Perez is no longer the guy who catches when Trevor Bauer starts or when Yan Gomes needs a day off. Now he is the In­di­ans’ pri­mary catcher be­cause Gomes was traded to the Na­tion­als on Dec. 1 for right-handed pitcher Je­fry Ro­driquez, mi­nor-league out­fielder Daniel John­son and mi­nor-league in­fielder An­druw Monas­te­rio.

It is a trade the In­di­ans hope pays off in the fu­ture rather than in im­me­di­ate re­turns.

Mean­while, the Tribe hopes Perez can re­place Gomes, not just be­hind the plate but at the plate. Gomes hit .266 last sea­son with 16 home runs and 48 RBI in 403 at-bats over 112 games.

Perez hit an ane­mic .168 in 62 games. He home­red twice and drove in only 19 runs in 179 at­bats, so the doubters have rea­son to doubt. Perez be­lieves with more op­por­tu­ni­ties his av­er­age will climb and his pro­duc­tion will in­crease. In fact, he was play­ing win­ter ball in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic to sharpen his skills the day Gomes was traded.

“I went to the Do­mini­can to get more at-bats and prove to the or­ga­ni­za­tion and other peo­ple I could hit.”

— In­di­ans catcher Roberto Perez

“I heard ru­mors, but I was very sur­prised when he was traded,” Perez said. “I was in the mid­dle of a game when they told me.

“I knew if he was traded I would get more play­ing time, but to be hon­est I wasn’t fo­cused on that. I went to the Do­mini­can to get more at-bats and prove to the or­ga­ni­za­tion and other peo­ple I could hit. Play­ing ev­ery day, you get con­sis­tent at-bats. You get live pitch­ing ev­ery day. It’s not like play­ing once a week when you do too much be­cause it’s the only op­por­tu­nity you’re go­ing to get.”

The In­di­ans traded right-handed pitcher Wal­ter

Lock­ett and in­fielder Sam Hag­gerty to the Mets on Jan. 7 for catcher Kevin Plawecki, who played in 78 games with the Mets last sea­son with 64 starts and hit .201 with 30 RBI.

Eric Haase will also be in Goodyear for spring train­ing. The In­di­ans will likely keep two catch­ers on the big-league ros­ter when they break camp in late March.

“Ex­actly how we split that play­ing time re­mains to be seen as we get into spring train­ing,” In­di­ans pres­i­dent Chris An­tonetti said when the Plawecki trade was made. “But we felt (trad­ing for Plawecki) was an op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire an­other ma­jor-league catcher that could help ab­sorb some of the bur­den in los­ing Yan. I an­tic­i­pate that Roberto would get the

bulk of the play­ing time. But again, we’ll have to see how things play out dur­ing the sea­son.”

Perez threw out 9 of 36 would-be base steal­ers with the In­di­ans last sea­son. Plawecki threw out 16 of 70 with the Mets.

The In­di­ans have been quiet on the trade front since ac­quir­ing Plawecki, but with nearly a month be­fore the start of spring train­ing (pitch­ers and catch­ers re­port Feb. 12) there is still plenty of time for An­tonetti to make a deal. John Morosi of MLB. com keeps push­ing the Corey Klu­ber to the Los An­ge­les Dodgers or San Diego Padres trade ru­mors, but things seem quiet for now.

“It would be more con­cern­ing to me if our play­ers weren’t be­ing ru­mored,

be­cause that would mean we wouldn’t have play­ers that other teams wanted to ac­quire,” An­tonetti said dur­ing an in­ter­view

on WKYC at Tribe Fest on Jan. 12. “And so when you’re in the po­si­tion that we are as an or­ga­ni­za­tion where we have

a lot of play­ers at the ma­jor-league level and at the mi­nor-league level that other teams want, it leads to a lot of con­ver­sa­tion be­tween teams. That’s ac­tu­ally a healthy thing, as un­com­fort­able as it might be as we’re go­ing through it.”

Ear­lier in the off­sea­son, the In­di­ans traded des­ig­nated hit­ter Ed­win En­car­na­cion to Seat­tle in the deal that re­turned Car­los San­tana to the Tribe. They traded first base­man Yon­der Alonso to the White Sox for mi­nor­league out­fielder Alex Call. Yandy Diaz was traded to Tampa Bay for out­fielder/ first base­man Jake Bauers as part of the En­car­na­cion trade and in­fielder Erik Gon­za­lez was traded to the Pi­rates for out­fielder Jor­dan Lu­plow.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

The In­di­ans’ Roberto Perez is a strong con­tender to be the team’s ev­ery day catcher in 2019.

TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Eric Haase signs an au­to­graph dur­ing Tribe Fest on Jan. 12.

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