GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Yan Gomes caught more games for the Indians last year than Roberto Perez, but Perez drew most of the playing time at the end of the season, starting four of five games in Cleveland’s ALDS loss to the Yankees.
It could be the other way around this year, with manager Terry Francona planning on utilizing his two-catcher system once again.
“We’re fortunate, we have two good catchers,” Francona said. “They both want to be considered kind of the No. 1, I get it. I know I’ve used the word organically, but it’ll kind of work itself out. One or the other is probably catching more than the other but nobody’s not going to play.
“(It’s like) when we play Kansas City, (Salvador Perez) catches a lot, and then you see (Drew) Butera catch the odd game here or there. We’re never going to be like that. Our guys are too close together where we need them to play more than that, so they will.”
All things are pretty equal behind the plate, with Perez throwing out 43 percent of the runners attempting to steal on him last year, while Gomes was at 42 percent.
Gomes, 30, is considered the better offensive producer, winning a Silver Slugger award in 2014 and batting .232 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 105 games in 2017. Perez, 29, hit just .207 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 73 games.
The Indians are deep at the catching position, with veteran Ryan Hanigan in camp and prized prospect Francisco Mejia waiting in the wings. Both are expected to begin the season at Triple-A Columbus, with Mejia, 22, as the starter.
“He’s a really well thought of young catcher,” Francona said of Mejia. “I don’t think he’s even been to Triple-A, so there’s nothing wrong with him getting some seasoning there. And if something happens to one of our guys, then we need to make the determination, ‘Is he ready to be in that role.’ That’s why you bring in guys like Hanigan. If somebody gets hurt, is it better to maybe let him catch and let Mejia kind of finish off his development?”
- Outfielder Brandon Guyer is expected to be sidelined the next few days after feeling discomfort in his surgically repaired left wrist Tuesday during outfield drills. Guyer, who was limited to 70 games last year and had not begun hitting, underwent an MRI on Wednesday morning, with the results expected today.
“We want the doctor to look at him just to see the best course of action,” Francona said. “Do ya kinda plow through? Do ya take a step back? And until he gets examined, we don’t want him to do something if he could potentially make it worse.”
- Left-hander Andrew Miller returned to camp after missing two days with the flu. He is expected to throw a bullpen session today.
- Center fielder Bradley Zimmer also returned to camp after missing Tuesday with the flu. Francona said Zimmer is under no limitations this spring after a late-season injury last year required surgery on his left hand.
“He actually, if we would’ve played longer, he probably would have been able to come back and play last year,” Francona said of Zimmer, who missed the entire ALDS loss to the Yankees.
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First baseman Yonder Alonso has made a positive first impression at camp.
“He’s a great kid,” Francona said. “He’s going to fit in fine, and he’s real professional.”
“(I’m) learning a lot about the person and the hitter,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said of Alonso. “He’s a good hitter. From watching him hit, he’s very consistent at what he does. He works extremely hard, day in and day out. He’s one of the first ones in the clubhouse every day. He’s a good person. I’m looking forward to being a teammate with him and a friend.”
Alonso, Cleveland’s most high-profile offseason acquisition, made the All-Star team for the first time in six-plus seasons (service time) last year, thanks largely to an increase in power.
After hitting 39 homers from 2010-16, Alonso belted 28 last year in 142 games for Oakland and Seattle.
“Some of it can be the amount of at-bats guys get and something clicks with them,” Francona said. “I know he changed a lot of what he tried to do, instead of getting on top, he tried to get the ball in the air. Guys that are strong, I know (Boston’s) J.D. Martinez has talked about it a lot, I think guys that do that, the ones that are successful are the guys that have the at-bats under their belt, where they’ve seen enough pitching and now they’re smart enough to know what they can do with a pitch and things like that.”
Tyler Naquin was a rookie sensation in 2016. Now he’s a long shot to make the Opening Day roster.
Naquin, 26, had a banner first season, finishing third behind Detroit’s Michael Fulmer and New York’s Gary Sanchez in AL Rookie of the Year voting, but last year was a disaster.
Wrecked by injuries and an unproductive bat, Naquin played in only 19 games for the Indians (.216 with an RBI), spending nearly the entire season back in the minors.
“He didn’t get a ton of at-bats for us and his at-bats at Triple-A were spotty at times because he was rehabbing his knee, his back, both,” Francona said. “We saw him two years ago kinda take the league by storm and then the league started to make their adjustments to him, and then he’s trying to make his adjustments back. It’s fun to watch young guys, they do that. The really good ones are able to continue to adjust to what the league’s doing and still be productive.”
Naquin is in camp healthy, but he’s in a crowded race to win a roster spot in the outfield with Abe Almonte and veterans Rajai Davis and Melvin Upton Jr.
“He looks healthy, he looks eager,” Francona said of Naquin. “He knows that at the beginning of the year there’s probably going to be a couple outfield positions that are up for grabs, and we’ve seen him before literally go take it. We want to see everybody do well. I hope at the end of spring we have some really hard decisions because everybody played so well. That would be terrific.”