In the tenth inning of the April 13 contest between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, catcher Roberto Perez and reliever James Karinchak were crossed up and the defensive stalwart was hit in his throwing hand. While it certainly caused some to hold their collective breaths, Perez was back in the lineup the next day and continued to man his spot as the key signal caller behind the plate for the Tribe, alleviating concerns for a while.
Three weeks later, Perez is going to take a rest. The Indians announced on Wednesday that the slumping backstop had been placed on the 10-day injured list with a fractured right ring finger.
In a pair of corresponding roster moves, the Indians have selected the contract of catcher Rene Rivera from Triple-A Columbus and designated outfielder Ben Gamel for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for the addition of the team’s newest backstop.
Perez was off to a decent start at the plate at the time of the injury, with five hits (including two homers), eight walks, and nine strikeouts in 29 plate appearances (.238/.448/.524 slash) over his first eight games. The results post-plunk were far harsher on the eyes, as he had just three hits (one double, one homer) over his next 44 plate appearances with three walks and 19 strikeouts (.075/.159/.175) in the next eleven games. He was held out of the lineup in each of the first two games of the Tribe’s series against the Kansas City Royals this week due to ongoing issues with the finger.
Manager Terry Francona noted that the injury was affecting him both at and behind the plate.
“He was feeling it, and he said he was feeling it,” Francona shared of Perez’s condition. “As the game progressed, he would feel it more, and that makes sense. They x-rayed it and it looked like it was starting to get a little bit worse, so we needed to stop that. That’s not fair to ‘Berto.”
The team also noticed that his throws to second in between innings during the game did not have their usual zip. He was 1-for-4 throwing out base runners after sustaining the injury (1-for-2 prior).
There is no time table for Perez’s return. He left the team and was heading to Dayton to be further evaluated.
Rivera was signed by the Indians on April 14, the day after Perez initially sustained the injury, to give the club some veteran catching depth. Last year’s third string catcher, Beau Taylor, was claimed off of waivers in the beginning of April by the Cincinnati Reds.
Austin Hedges will see the bulk of the work behind the plate for the Tribe in Perez’s absence. Rivera, 37, has appeared in parts of a dozen different seasons in the Majors, most recently with the New York Mets in 2020. He was 1-for-4 with a single and three strikeouts in limited work for the club before his season ended early after he hyperextended his left elbow.
Gamel struggled during a short stint with the Indians to open the year after winning a spot off of the bench out of spring training. The 28-year-old appeared in eleven games, but could not get going at the plate, going 1-for-14 (.071) with a double, three walks, and six strikeouts before being optioned to Cleveland’s alternate training site on April 17.
The Indians have seven days to trade Gamel or place him on irrevocable outright waivers.
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