CLEVELAND — During an 8-4 win over the Yankees on Saturday, red-hot catcher Roberto Perez was at the plate as starting pitcher Adam Plutko held a conversation about him in the dugout with a rotation mate.
“(Shane) Bieber and I were talking about it, like, ‘Who is this guy?’” Plutko said of Perez, who took a swing at the same time. “As he hit it, Shane said, ‘Yeah, I think he’s just a lot more confident now.’ As soon as he said confident, the ball went over the fence. It couldn’t have been better timing. It was just one of those weird things you put out into the ether.
“He’s quite the power.”
No offense to Perez, but it seems even his own teammates don’t recognize him this season.
After serving as the backup to Yan Gomes for years, Perez has emerged from the shadows.
Though his .235 batting average is unimpressive, most of his other numbers are, starting with a career-high 11 home runs just 46 games into the season. He’s driven in 25 runs and owns an .830 OPS and a .493 slugging percentage, going deep in four straight games during the current homestand.
When the season began, it looked as though he was feeling the pressure from taking over full time for Gomes, who was traded to Washington as part of ownership’s offseason cost-cutting measures.
Now, he’s as confident as ever with a bat in his hands.
“I mean, shoot, he’s swinging the bat really well,” manager Terry Francona said. “What comes first? It’s easy to tell people to have confidence (but) ... I think it’s because he’s staying on the ball so much better. He’s such a strong kid. When he uses the whole field, he can get to more pitches and really becomes a weapon.”
“I’m not trying to hit homers,” Perez said. “I’m just trying to go to the plate and have a great at-bat and to put the ball in play. I’ve just been lucky to hit homers. I’ve been lucky to hit mistakes. I think I go up there with a plan and something out (over the plate). I’ve been lucky to not miss it. They keep pitching me up and in and sliders down, but I just gotta stay with my approach and my plan and execute it at the plate.”
It’s not that Perez hasn’t proved his worth before. With Gomes sidelined by injuries, he was one of Cleveland’s most productive players during its World Series run in 2016.
With Gomes out of his way for good, Perez has begun to seize the moment.
“I was confident enough that when I (got) regular at-bats I was gonna be able to make some adjustments and see how other teams attack you,” said Perez, who is one of only two catchers in the majors — the other Milwaukee’s Yasmani Grandal — with double-digit totals in homers and runners caught stealing (10). “But it’s nice, man. It’s nice to be able to play every day, knowing if you go 0-for-4 you’re confident that you’re gonna be back there the next day.
“I know it’s tough playing once a week or twice a week, but I’m not taking it for granted, man. This is the opportunity I was waiting for and now I’m just getting the most out of it.”
Carlos Carrasco saw doctors at Cleveland Clinic on Monday.
Carrasco has not spoken to the media since stepping away from baseball when he was placed on the 10-day injured list last week with an undisclosed blood disorder.
In a statement release, the Indians said they hoped Carrasco would return this season, but offered no timetable.