There are subtle elements to being a catcher that sometimes only another catcher can understand or even notice. In this realm, Royals veteran Salvador Perez often leaned on Drew Butera.
Glove placement. Knee placement. Balance within a squat. Butera, a four-year backup with the Royals, was an extra set of eyes when Perez was behind the plate, and the two would converse between innings to make any necessary tweaks.
It was a unique relationship and bond that came to an end Friday.
The Royals traded Butera to Colorado in exchange for left-handed pitcher Jerry Vasto. The team subsequently optioned Vasto to Class AAA Omaha.
After learning of the trade, Perez’s initial response was to call Butera and say goodbye and then wish him well.
“We both cried,” Perez said. “We’ve been together for a long time. It’s part of the business, (but) sometimes it’s hard.”
The trade was part of a handful of moves the Royals made Friday, a day before MLB rosters expand. The club recalled catcher Cam Gallagher, and they activated outfielder Brian Goodwin from the disabled list. Both were with Class AAA Omaha. Perez is day-to-day with a sprained thumb, and the Royals will add Class A Wilmington catcher Meibrys Viloria when the rosters expand on Saturday.
But the conversation in the clubhouse Friday afternoon centered around Butera, who joined the Royals in May 2015 and five months later caught the final out of the 2015 World Series.
As the deal was being put together Thursday, Royals manager Ned Yost thought back to his favorite Drew Butera moment — a plate appearance during the Royals’ comeback in Game 4 of the 2015 American League Division Series. After Yost had pinch-run for Perez one inning earlier, a key spot in the game fell to Butera. The Houston Astros turned to their closer in the eighth.
Butera drew a 10-pitch walk to load the bases, and Alex Gordon drove in the go-ahead run on the next hitter.
“He had some big plate appearances,” Yost said. “If you talk to (Astros manager) A.J. Hinch, he’ll tell you that was the pivotal (at-bat). They brought in their closer to get Drew to stop it right there. And Drew kept the inning going.”
The playing time in Kansas City was minimal over the past four years. Such is life as Salvador Perez’s backup. Butera totaled only 521 at-bats with the Royals, hitting .225 with 10 home runs. He was hitting .188 with two homers this year.
“Drew was a great teammate and a great player,” Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield said. “Really took his role and did it to the best that I’ve ever seen anybody take to that backup catcher role — in preparation and talking to pitchers and preparing guys. He was incredible at what he did.”
After the departure of Butera, the Royals have six players left in the organization from the 2015 World Series roster — Perez, infielders Alcides Escobar and Adalberto Mondesi, outfielders Alex Gordon and Paulo Orlando (who is at Class AAA Omaha) and pitcher Danny Duffy.
Vasto, 26, is a relief pitcher who has spent the bulk of 2018 with Colorado’s AAA affiliate. He posted a 3.16 earned run average across 37 appearance there. He earned a call-up to the Rockies earlier this season but allowed three runs and recorded just two outs in his only major-league appearance. In five minor-league seasons, Vasto has posted a 3.81 earned run average and 1.31 WHIP.
Butera’s trade to Colorado comes on the final day of the MLB playoff roster deadline. The Rockies trail Arizona by 1 1/2 games in the National League West.
“He’ll be really good for Colorado over there,” Merrifield said. “I’m excited for him to be able to go and compete on a postseason run.”