PITTSBURGH — The anticipated return later this month of Salvy Perez from the disabled list might not necessarily force the Royals to choose immediately between Humberto Quintero and Brayan Peña as their backup catcher.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
General manager Dayton Moore said the club might opt to keep three catchers in the short term while Perez works his way back to full-time duty in his recovery from torn cartilage in his left knee.
“It just depends on where we are and how confident we are in Salvy’s health,” Moore said, “and the workload we think he can handle.
“Timing is important. There may be other things working in the background that force us to keep three catchers for a week to 10 days. It’s not out of the question. It depends on where we are and what’s going on.”
That suggests the Royals might want to gauge the trade market for Quintero and Peña, which might hinge on injuries to players on other teams — i.e., precisely the scenario that prompted the Royals to acquire Quintero from Houston in March after Perez’s injury.
“We’re not going to make any preconceived notions of how that’s going to play out,” Moore said. “Salvador is still very early on in the rehab process. Although things look very positive, it’s still early.”
Perez, 22, began his rehab playing assignment Friday at Class AAA Omaha. Such assignments are limited to 20 days for non-pitchers, which means the club must reach a resolution by June 28.
Club officials previously speculated Perez was likely to spend nearly all (or nearly all) 20 permissible days at Omaha and even then would likely be limited initially to catching three of four times a week once he returned to the big-league roster.
Perez is seven for 17 in through four games of his rehab assignment after going zero for three in Sunday’s 8-6 victory over Round Rock. He caught Sunday for just the second time; he served as the designated hitter in his two other games.
Peña, 30, and Quintero, 32, have roughly split time in Perez’s absence. Peña is batting .257 in 32 games with one homer and 11 RBIs, while Quintero is batting .230 in 33 games with one homer and 18 RBIs.
The Royals do have the ability to control Peña, who is making $875,000, through next season, but Quintero, who is making $1 million, will be a free agent after this season.
“You make those decisions when you have to,” Moore said. “I don’t have a lot of discussions with individuals about that yet because I don’t want people to start taking sides and stirring things up.
“Everybody thinks about it, though. If you’re doing your job correctly, you’re constantly evaluating every single day.”
Fans caught a brief glimpse of the often-rough humor that permeates big-league clubhouses Saturday night during Fox’s regional telecast of the Royals’ 5-3 loss to the Pirates.
Left-hander Bruce Chen, who started Sunday’s series finale, was doing an in-game interview from the dugout when Quintero pranced into the background with his eyes narrowed — and emphasizing the pantomime by pointing at his eyes.
The gesture was, no question, politically incorrect, although Chen took no offense.
“I’m not offended at all,” he insisted. “I’m proud of my heritage and being Asian. I really like the way my eyes look. It makes me look sexy. It’s just joking around. I’m definitely not offended, and I hope other people don’t get offended.
“I don’t think, by any means, was he trying to put my race down. He was doing it to me, and I like the way my eyes look.”
The Royals, coincidentally, completed that March 20 trade that brought Quintero from Houston by sending outfielder D’Andre Toney to the Astros on Sunday as the player to be named later.
Toney, 20, batted .340 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 43 games last season for Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League following his selection in the 14th round of the 2011 draft. He had been in extended spring training this season prior to the trade.
The original deal brought Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois, now at Class AAA Omaha, to the Royals for minor-league lefty Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later.
Major-league rules specify that players to be named later must be identified within six months and can’t be an active major-league player in the interval between the trade and the date the player is identified.
Manager Ned Yost sent out a defensive-oriented lineup for Sunday’s series finale and said he’s leaning toward that approach for the Royals’ remaining interleague road games at St. Louis and Houston.
If so, that effectively means either Billy Butler or Eric Hosmer won’t be in the lineup. Butler sat Sunday when Hosmer shifted back to first base after starting the two previous games in right field.
“We’ve got to try to play a defensive game,” Yost said. “I tried it (the other way). I had to try it, and I’ll continue to think through it — but I’m leaning toward defense.”
Mitch Maier’s tumbling catch in the seventh inning over the short wall in foul ground on Andrew McCutchen’s looping fly down the right-field line is certain to be one of the season’s highlights.
It was a phenomenal effort by Maier, and it was the only time the Royals retired McCutchen, who drove in Pittsburgh’s three runs on an RBI double and a two-run homer.
It just wasn’t a catch.
Maier actually dropped the ball briefly after flipping over the wall and landing on his hands. But he snatched the ball up before first-base umpire Ron Kulpa could arrive to make the call.
“I caught the ball,” Maier said. “Then I flipped over, and I don’t know what happened.”
Maier held the ball up for Kulpa to see and, after Kulpa signaled out, hopped back over the wall and chugged to the dugout.
It was 38 years ago today — June 11, 1974 — that Joe Burke replaced Cedric Tallis and became the second general manager in franchise history. Burke held the post through October 1981 and presided over four division titles and one pennant.
Burke became club president when succeeded by John Schuerholz as general manager. Burke held that post until his death from cancer in 1992. He was a 1992 inductee to the club’s Hall of Fame.
Four of the first six Royals to reach base stole bases. The Pirates have failed to throw out any of the last 23 stolen-base attempts by opponents.
The Royals have lost 24 of their last 33 interleague games, and their next 12 games are against National League opponents.
The Pirates are 12-3 since May 25.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.