As expected, the Cleveland Indians announced on Monday afternoon that catcher Yan Gomes had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with what has been diagnosed as a right shoulder separation, an injury to the AC joint in the shoulder. He is expected to miss four to eight weeks while recovering, but no surgery appears needed.
Roberto Perez was brought back early from his rehab assignment and has joined the team in Kansas City prior to the start of the Indians’ three-game series with the Royals this week.
Gomes was injured in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game in Minnesota against the Twins. After hitting a ground ball to third base, first baseman Kennys Vargas had to swipe a tag at Gomes after the throw from third was off line. Gomes landed awkwardly on his swiped left leg, appearing to slightly hyperextend his left knee, before being thrown off balance and landing hard on his right shoulder. The Indians’ struggling starting catcher grabbed at his knee briefly before the focus of attention turned to his right shoulder. His arm was placed in a sling before he left the playing field on a cart.
He returned to Cleveland for further evaluation from the Indians’ team doctor following Sunday’s game. There were no issues reported with his left knee.
Back from his Triple-A rehab assignment a little early is Perez, who will work back to health while a contributor to the Indians’ active roster. It is unknown how much of the catching duties he will handle in the beginning with Chris Gimenez, but most presumptions are that Perez will ultimately carry the bulk of the load and for good reason.
Perez is generally regarded as one of the better backup catchers around the game of baseball and capable of being a starter on some teams. His pitch framing abilities are often pointed out as being above average. He made three errors at the plate in 2014 (.988 fielding percentage), four in 2015 (.993), and had yet to commit one this season. He threw out 36% of would-be base stealers in 29 games in 2014 and 42% in 69 games in 2015. He was 1-for-1 in four games this season before his right thumb injury on April 30 and the surgery that shut him down further.
While Perez’s return may help resolve some of the issues for the Tribe’s current catching dilemmas, he may not inject that much more into one of the worst offensive catching crews in the game.
The three catchers that the Indians have used this season have combined to hit .169 with a .215 on-base percentage, .299 slugging percentage, and .514 OPS. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates catchers have provided a worse slugging percentage this season; the Indians are dead last in baseball in the other three stats.
Perez slashed .228/.348/.402 last season with seven homers and 21 RBI in 70 games while replacing Gomes, but he drew 33 walks to provide a better on-base percentage to compensate for the lower batting average.
By comparison, Gomes has drawn just 22 walks over the last season and a half.
Perez is 0-for-8 in four games of work this season, but had made 15 trips to the plate, drawing six walks and hitting one sacrifice fly.
In 35 games, Gimenez has provided the Indians offense with a .188/.231/.271 slash line with a double, two homers, and six runs batted in. He has committed just one error behind the plate, but has allowed three passed balls and six wild pitches in 32 games while throwing out 19% of base stealers.
Gomes’ issues at the plate have been discussed all season long as his bat is in an extended slump dating back to portions of last season. After hitting .294 in his first year with the club in 2013 (with eleven homers and 38 RBI in 88 games), the average dropped to a still respectable .278 in 2014, when he hit 21 homers and drove in 74 in 135 games, taking home the Silver Slugger Award for American League catchers.
Injury set him back in 2015, limiting him to just 95 games of action. He hit .231 on the season with a dozen homers and 45 RBI. The first three months of the season were marred by unimpressive numbers at the plate. The second half of the season was better, as he hit .260 in July and .264 in September and provided plenty of offense in August when he hit four homers and drove in 18 in 22 games.
Unlike last season, when there were some positive stretches throughout the season for Gomes, this year has been steadily disappointing. He hit .200 in 18 April games with three doubles, three homers, and eleven RBI. That mark dropped to .148 in May in 21 games, but he still supplied seven extra base hits (three doubles, a triple, and three home runs) while driving in 14 runs. But both the run and power production had bottomed out with the low average over the next two months, as he hit .212 (four doubles, two homers, five RBI) in 20 June games and had hit .054 (one double, two RBI) in 12 July games prior to his injury. The double, just his second hit of the month, came in that final game on Sunday.
Gomes receives praise for his game calling ability, his pitch framing, and his ability to throw out runners at a high percentage. He is at 37% caught stealing this season, better than the league average of 30%. In each of the last four seasons working as a backstop for the Indians, he has been better than average. This season’s results were his best since throwing out 41% in his first regular work in the Majors behind the plate in 2013.
He had committed three errors (.995 fielding percentage) on the season in 70 games behind the plate and had been charged with four passed balls. As a whole, Indians catchers have been charged with the third-most passed balls in the league, but the fourth-fewest wild pitches.
Perez will get his chance to help plug the hole behind the plate while Gomes recovers. Given the low bar set by the other two catchers before him, Perez should be able to match or exceed the numbers being provided by Indians catchers at the plate this season, which would be an immediate boost to an already surprisingly productive lineup.
If he can do at least that, the Indians can focus their attention to strengthening up other areas of the ball club in need, instead of spending valuable resources to shore up the position.
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