TORONTO – The Royals didn’t come out for batting practice on the field before Saturday’s game, which in theory gave players more time to hang out and hang around the clubhouse.
But when manager Mike Matheny walked through the coach room, he saw Salvador Pérez doing stretching exercises and getting ready for the game. Pérez takes every opportunity to stay in shape, something Matheny says speaks perfectly to his discipline.
“As soon as you get off the field, you’re doing something to prepare for the next day,” Matheny said. “It is a discipline and a commitment that he knows perfectly. It is something very rare and for that reason I think that he is going to be involved in the conversation as one of the greatest who has played this game behind the plate ”.
On Saturday, Perez became the fourth Royals player to reach 10 years of service this season, joining Danny Duffy (who was traded to the Dodgers Thursday), Mike Minor and Jarrod Dyson. The 10-year mark activates the full pension of a player after his retirement, and offers the possibility of vetoing any change to those who also have five or more seasons with the same team.
But there’s also a sense of prestige tied to spending a decade in the majors: Less than 10% of major leaguers make it that far. For Pérez, who plays the most demanding position as a receiver, achieving that milestone is even more impressive.
“He’s been able to handle all the demands of being behind the plate, doing it for all that time and improving by the day,” said Matheny, a former catcher who played 13 seasons in the Big Top. “It is something surprising, to be able to take all the blows that his body has taken and still find a way to improve catching.”
That is correct, Pérez continues to improve over the years. This season he went to the All-Star Game – the seventh time he’s called up – and has been a home runner. Perez hit home runs three days in a row between Wednesday and Friday to bring his season total to 26. He’s one short of matching his personal high (achieved in 2017 and 2018) and he still has two months left to break it.
Pérez, in addition, continues to be a first-rate receiver. His 37.9% retired robbery rate (29-11) is the best in the American League.
“In general, when you see bat, glove, arm, what he can do, for me there is Salvador and then everyone else,” said second baseman Whit Merrifield. “He is still young. It’s a bit crazy that he’s 10 years old now, because he’s still a young player ”.
Pérez was 16 when he signed with the Royals as an amateur free agent. He’s 31 now, and there’s no evidence he’s ready to slow down. Kansas City certainly doesn’t think so, either way, as the team gave it a four-year, $ 82 million contract extension in March that will keep the 2015 World Series MVP in the city until at least 2025.
By staying healthy and productive, Pérez will have much more time to build on a legacy that is already full of accomplishments, including five Gold Gloves and three Silver Bats.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him, because he is going to retire as one of the greatest catchers of all time,” Merrifield said. “And I’m excited to be by your side to see how all that happens.”