In the midst of a one-for-25 slump at the plate, Royals catcher Salvador Perez received his first day off of the season for Thursday’s matinee against the Indians.
Despite Perez’s cratering offensive production, manager Ned Yost declined to recognize a correlation between his catcher’s playing time and his hitting.
“He’s just struggling offensively,” Yost said on Thursday morning. “He doesn’t need (a day off) physically.”
Still, Brett Hayes received the start. Hayes entered the game with only one plate appearance this season.
Perez is 23, and a critical component to the Royals lineup. Despite missing time due to injury and bereavement leave in 2013, he still spent 137 games behind the plate. If he stays healthy, he will top that number this season.
And Yost will not apologize for his usage of Perez. He batted aside questions about sitting Perez during the first few weeks of the season. The Royals had three off-days built into the schedule during the first 12 games.
“The kid’s played for the last two years like this,” Yost said. “He’s going through a [cold] streak. This is a tough division. It’s the toughest division in the American League in terms of weather.
“It’s the coldest. We’ve got Minnesota, we’ve got Cleveland, we’ve got Detroit. They’re all cold-weather cities. Chicago. Early in the year, it’s tough for your offense to get going.”Mariot saves the bullpen
Called into emergency duty on Thursday afternoon, rookie reliever Michael Mariot performed an admirable service. He replaced Bruce Chen for 3
innings and protected the bullpen from further usage.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, Mariot’s job was a 10, with what he came in and did today,” Yost said. “He was fantastic.”
Now the bullpen will be fully rested heading into a three-game series in Baltimore. Mariot struck out four and allowed one hit.
“It felt good to get outs,” Mariot said. “And feel confident.”Rusty on the mend
A day after surgery to repair his broken wrist, Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz returned to the team. He sported a sizable cast on his left arm. “This thing feels like a small baby,” Kuntz said.
Kuntz remained upbeat as ever. Perez scorched him with a line drive during batting practice on Monday. Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic inserted a plate and eight screws into Kuntz’s arm on Wednesday.
Both Kuntz and Yost are unsure when Kuntz can go back to coaching on the field. Mike Jirschele has replaced him thus far.
“As soon as he starts feeling better, then he can maybe get back out there,” Yost said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to be. I mean, he’s got this big, heavy cast on. I’d like him out there. But we’ll just see what he can do.
“It depends on how much pain he has, and if he can maneuver.”