The Kansas City Royals made a strong case last year that Salvador Perez was worthy of a long term contract extension. After sustaining an injury in the spring, Perez returned to action during the season and seemingly proved that the organization was right. A rebuilt pitching staff puts a larger focus on Perez’s ability behind the plate in 2013. As the season looms in the horizon, Perez is preparing to leave the team to play for the Venezuela World Baseball Classic team.
Perez will be counted on to provide the Royals with two key components to the 2013 season. He will provide an offensive threat in the lower part of the lineup, a consistent bat that can provide some pop and some run production beyond the middle of the order. Secondly, and probably most importantly, Perez will be a field general and a leader on the defensive side of the field.
Perez has proven his presence on the field commands respect. He has shown a strong work ethic and an ability to handle a major league pitching staff at a high level. He did this last year while working with, primarily, players that he had a strong relationship with prior to the season. The pitching staff and the young catcher seemed to be on the same page and working very well together.
This season, however, the team has taken drastic moves to improve the starting staff. Early projections figure that the opening day rotation for the Royals will feature at least four players that were not on the opening day roster last season. One of those pitchers, Jeremy Guthrie, pitched for the Royals in the last half of the season. James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana have joined the team during the offseason and will be looking to Spring Training to get better acquainted with their new surroundings.
To paraphrase Stan Lee, with new pitchers comes great responsibility. In essence, that is what Spring Training is about for most catchers. Getting to know the pitching staff, their habits and tendencies as well as learning to watch the player to ensure that you know when he is struggling or cruising along is a key component to a successful battery. Perez is highly regarded for his work in this area but for the first time in his career, he is faced with a challenge of working with players that he does not know and have vastly more experience then he does.
In the midst of this important Spring Training exercise, Salvador will head out to play for the honor of his country in the World Baseball Classic. One can hardly fault the young man for taking this opportunity to play for national pride on such a large stage. Many of the other players that will participate, however, have publicly stated that they felt it was a good time to do so based on their current role with their team and the familiarity with the current makeup surrounding them.
Perez will serve his country well. The question is, does it serve his role with the Royals well to choose to participate in this exhibition?
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
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