Royals’ Salvador Perez not happy with MLB ban on Venezuelan winter ball

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Royals star catcher Salvador Perez, a native of Venezuela, is upset Major League Baseball has banned players from participating in winter ball in his home country. He said he and other big leaguers from Venezuela plan to reach out MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark about a solution.

The normally boisterous Perez, who has not played this season after having Tommy John surgery in March, spoke in stern tones about the decision announced last week by MLB to prevent all major-league and affiliated players in the minors from participating in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League this winter.

MLB’s decision to prohibit players from playing in Venezuela came as a result of President Trump’s executive order to impose new economic sanctions against the government of Venezuela.

“I don’t like it, seriously,” Perez said. “I don’t know why the do that, because players like me — in the big leagues for a long time — we don’t need to play in Venezuela. We don’t have to play. We do because we like our fans. They don’t have a visa to come here to watch you play. That’s why we do that.”

Earlier this week, Venezuelan baseball officials reportedly asked the U.S. Treasury Department to make an exception.

The concerns for players like Perez have more to do with the financial strains on their minor-league brethren, than needs of already established major-league players.

“Guys in High-A, Double-A, people who don’t play in the big leagues, they still need the money because they only get paid here until September,” Perez said. “How are they going to survive after that? They’re not going to let them play in the Dominican or play in another country. I don’t like it.

“It’s not for me, not for Wilson Ramos, it’s for the young guys. They need it. They need the money. They need to play there.”

While coming through the minors, Perez spend most of his offseasons in instructional leagues in both Arizona and the Dominican Republic. Perez participated in winter ball in his home country twice in 2012-13 and 2013-14 after he first broke into the big leagues in 2011.

Perez said prior to the ruling from MLB that he’d hoped to get cleared to play in Venezuela this winter just as a designated hitter and get 85-100 at-bats because he hasn’t faced seen pitching in so long.

However, Perez wasn’t sure that he’d even get the OK from the Royals training staff to play this winter.

Royals infielder Humerto Arteaga, also a native of Venezuela, played winter ball for four years, 2015-18, on two different teams in Venezuela. He was added to the Royals’ 40-man roster this year and has played in more than 30 games in the majors this season.

Arteaga credited his first year of winter ball for a “big jump” in his game, offensively. He expected to play this winter, at least enough to get 100-150 at-bats. Now, he’s in a holding pattern.

“What people don’t understand is it’s just not the games,” Arteaga said. “It has a lot to do with the money as well. What are all those kids going to do to get money when they’re at home. They’ve got families. They’ve got kids. They’ve got to make money somehow.

“They cannot make much there, but at least it’s something to go through the offseason. It’s not like here where guys can get a job through the offseason. That doesn’t work there. It’s tougher for the guys. We’re still waiting on the final decision. As of right now, it’s going to be sad, I guess for a lot of guys.”

In theory, the players who’ve been prevented from playing in Venezuela could receive permission from their clubs to play in another winter league, such as in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Mexico.

However, those leagues often have limits on how many foreign players can be imported on each team. The rosters aren’t necessarily holding multiple open spots.

“Not many guys are going to be able to do that,” Arteaga said. “Teams are already set. Maybe 10 guys can do that. There’s going to be hundreds of guys without a job during the offseason. It is what it is.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.