The plan crafted by Royals manager Ned Yost to limit the playing time of catcher Salvador Perez is simple and time-tested. Yost intends to pair the club’s backup catcher, most likely either Erik Kratz or rookie Francisco Peña, with one member of the starting rotation.
By dubbing the reserve the proverbial “personal catcher” of the pitcher, Yost will force himself to rest Perez, a 24-year-old two-time All-Star. Even his ebullience could not mask his fatigue in 2014, as Perez caught 158 games. Yost and the team’s front office know they play with fire when they overextend Perez. His hitting collapsed in the second half, and he finished the season with a career-low .692 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
The trouble is, Perez is energetic and insistent each and every day. He started every game in September because Yost felt he needed Perez’s defense behind the plate. As Yost charts his plan for 2015, he finds himself confronting a similar problem.
“He works so well with everybody,” Yost said of Perez last week at FanFest. Then Yost began to check through his rotation.
Yordano Ventura? “No way. Their chemistry is really, really good.”
Jason Vargas? “Vargy has really good chemistry with Sal.”
Yost cut himself short. All of his pitchers possess a positive working relationship with Perez.
“We’ll figure it out when we get there,” Yost said. “I’ll talk to all the starters. And we’ll go from there.”
From the outside looking in, the most likely candidate to be teamed with Kratz is Jeremy Guthrie. He turns 36 in April and is the most experienced of all five starters. He also figures to be the most malleable, especially as he’ll likely be slotted at the back end of the rotation.
The other likely candidate is Danny Duffy. In 2014, Duffy posted a 2.28 ERA when working with Perez. He appreciated Perez’s calming presence behind the plate. But in two starts with Kratz, Duffy allowed only two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings.
The club still has almost two months in Surprise, Ariz., to decide. But Yost insists he will stick with his plan.
“If I don’t, it’s hard for me to give Salvador a day off,” Yost said. “It’s just hard for me. I just like when he’s in the lineup. So I’ve almost got to force myself that way.”