Posted on 15 February 2013.
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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Posted in Featured, Royals
Posted on 12 February 2012.
To paraphrase Smokey and the Bandit, the St. Louis Cardinals loaded up their truck Friday because they’ve got a run to make. That trip will take the Cardinals to Jupiter, Fla., to begin Spring Training 2012 and kick off the six-week journey to Opening Day April 5 in Miami against the Marlins. That means this is the last weekend without official St. Louis Cardinals baseball activities on the lush, green fields in Florida set underneath the backdrop of palm trees.
Some teams such as the Seattle Mariners have already reported to their Spring Training complex. The Cardinals will get everything set up during the week, and pitchers and catchers will report to camp Saturday. Hear that? I said Saturday. We are finally close enough to count down the remaining days by the day of the week rather than the date on the calendar.
A few players have already begun practice at the Cardinals’ Roger Dean Stadium facilities. Most notably, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright has thrown regularly from a mound and came away from those sessions saying he felt “danged good.” That comment should bring a giddy smile to Cardinals fans’ faces. Wainwright’s competitive fire is right up there with teammate Chris Carpenter. Both guys have talent, but they can also will themselves through a game to put the team in position to win. He also says the Cardinals will be better than last year. Time will tell us if that is the case for a 90-win team coming off of a World Series championship, but Spring Training is all about optimism, after all.
Most of Wainwright’s optimism is based on solid reasoning rather than mere hope. Unless something terrible happens to derail the season, the Cardinals will not be horrible. Most baseball fans would likely consider the team a disappointment this year if it finished close to .500 or worse. A return trip to the playoffs, much less the World Series, will still be difficult for the Cardinals. The Milwaukee Brewers are worse on paper this year than last, and the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros are not substantially better than last year at this time. The Cincinnati Reds are better now on paper than they were at the beginning of Spring Training in 2011, and they look to be the main competition for the Cardinals to win the division crown.
Either way, the Cardinals will be competitive, and that is really what makes a baseball game fun.
Yes, it is excruciating to lose late in the late innings of a game after the starter threw a terrific seven innings, but the fact the Cardinals are often in games where the late innings matter keeps the fan base energized. That energy will start to build Saturday when Spring Training officially opens for the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. Doesn’t that sound nice?
The delivery trucks might still have a long way to go and the team might have a relatively short time to get ready for the season, but it is time to say goodbye to winter.
This team is going to try to do what many say can’t be done: successfully defend its title in 2012.
Posted in Cardinals