Tagged in: catcher

Perez breaks Bench’s home run record; Royals sweep Indians

Salvador Perez hit his 46th home run, breaking Johnny Bench’s record for most by a catcher in a campaign to highlight the opener, then the Kansas City Royals completed a doubleheader sweep by defeating the Cleveland Indians 4-2 Monday night.

Perez hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning of a 7-2 victory, topping Bench’s total from 1970 for the highest total by a player who spent at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher.

Perez also moved into a tie for the major league lead in homers with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Perez leads the majors with 115 RBI.

“I had never hit 30 in my career,” he said. “So I was looking for 30 homers and 100 RBI. This is a dream come true.” Perez’s career high in home runs was 27, which came in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

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Being in the same company with Bench is something else special for the 31-year-old Perez who has been a mainstay for the Royals since reaching the majors in 2011.

“When you see a Hall of Fame catcher, you try to be just like him,” Perez said. “I’m going to try my best to be one of those guys.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny considered it an honor to witness the moment.

“It’s just hard to get your head around, to be honest,” Matheny said. “The long history in this game and how many great players have come through. For him to do something that nobody’s done, it’s amazing.”

In the second game, Perez hit an early double before striking out against Anthony Gose, a former outfielder who returned to the majors after a five-year absence as a hard-throwing reliever.

Gose pitched 1 2/3 innings, permitting one run and one hit with one walk and one strikeout. Of his 39 pitches, seven reached 100 mph.

The 31-year-old Gose last played in the majors in 2016 with Detroit. He spent parts of five years with the Tigers and Toronto before becoming a pitcher.

“It meant a lot to get the opportunity to go out there again. It’s been a while. I’m excited to be able to have the opportunity,” Gose said.

Joel Payamps, Domingo Tapia, Jake Brentz. Josh Statamount and Scott Barlow combined on a four-hitter in the second game. Tapia (3-0) struck out four in 1 2/3 innings and Barlow pitched the ninth for his 14th save.

The Royals scored twice off Nick Wittgren (2-8) in the first when Carlos Santana drew a bases-loaded walk and Hunter Dozier added a sacrifice fly.

Kansas City scored in the fourth off Gose on a double by Hanser Alberto and an RBI groundout by Sebastian Rivero.

Alberto added an RBI single in the sixth off Bryan Shaw.

Andrés Giménez and Bobby Bradley homered for Cleveland. The Indians were held to four runs in the two seven-inning games after scoring 11 runs on both Saturday and Sunday in victories over the New York Yankees.

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St. Louis Cardinals bring Yadier Molina back on 1-year deal

The St. Louis Cardinals are bringing back Yadier Molina for an 18th season, the team revealed Monday.

St. Louis agreed to a one-year deal with the catcher, a source told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, confirming multiple reports.

Molina is a rarity, having spent his entire career — 2,025 games — with the Cardinals. The only two players to play more games in a Cardinals uniform in franchise history are Hall of Famers Stan Musial (3,026) and Lou Brock (2,289).

Molina shared a video of his career highlight on Instagram on Monday and ended it with the words “I’m back.”

The nine-time All-Star played 42 of 60 games during the pandemic-shortened campaign, hitting .262 with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

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Molina also became the 12th catcher in major league history to join the 2,000-hit club, and his 2,001 hits currently rank fifth among all active players (and sixth in Cardinals franchise history). Behind the plate, Molina has been a steadying influence for the Cardinals’ pitching staff while also being credited with 170 defensive runs saved as a catcher since 2004.

He has caught 1,989 games, the most with a single franchise in major league history and No. 6 all time among all catchers.

“I think about [the Hall of Fame],” Molina told ESPN before last season. “When I started my career, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles. … All I’ve done is work hard to get better and better every single year to become the best catcher I can be. And my numbers are obviously there. I think that, because of the way I catch, that I’m one of the best catchers to have ever played in baseball.”

Molina, 38, tested positive for COVID-19 in August as the Cardinals were hit by an outbreak just three games into the 2020 season.

He was critical of the statistical-based process — without the usual input from managers or coaches — used to determine the Gold Glove finalists in 2020. The nine-time winner, which ranks third among catchers, had hoped to tie Hall of Famer Johnny Bench for second with 10.

Molina has been a key component to the Cardinals’ success over the years, having helped lead the team to four National League pennants and two World Series titles.

He has a career .281 average with 160 home runs, 932 RBIs, 66 stolen bases and has caught 350 of the would-be 869 baserunners trying to steal a base (40% success rate).

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San Diego Padres set to acquire Yu Darvish from Chicago Cubs

The San Diego Padres are on the verge of making their second trade for a star pitcher in as many days, with the team expected to get righty Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini, who emerged as the right-hander’s personal catcher in Chicago, will go to San Diego once the deal is completed, sources said.

In return, the Cubs are poised to get right-hander Zach Davies and four young prospects: outfielders Owen Caissie (18) and Ismael Mena (18), and shortstops Reggie Preciado (17) and Yeison Santana (20). Darvish, 34, is in the middle of six-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Cubs before the 2018 season.

After an elbow injury sidelined him that year, he started to come into his own in 2019, leading to a stellar 2020 campaign. He compiled a 2.01 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 76 innings, finishing second in NL Cy Young Award voting to Trevor Bauer.

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Sources told ESPN on Sunday that the Padres also are concluding a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for former Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Like Darvish, that trade has not been officially announced.

But once they are, the two star pitchers will join Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack to form a formidable rotation in San Diego. Righty Mike Clevinger also is on the team but will miss the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

For the Cubs, the Darvish trade starts a reset under new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. That reset will include salary relief as Darvish is owed $59 million over the next three seasons.

The team already non-tendered left fielder Kyle Schwarber, which also saved it money.

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New York Yankees to tender offer to veteran catcher Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez turned 28 years old Wednesday and obtained the ultimate birthday gift: a contract tendered by the New York Yankees.

Longtime MLB insider Jon Heyman reported the Bronx Bombers would offer the contract to the polarizing backstop.

This is the best news Sanchez could’ve received. He posted an awful line of .147/.253/.365 in 49 matches. He hit ten home runs but only recorded 23 hits on the season.

His strikeout rate (K%) was a horrific 36%. Sanchez also struggled defensively again and was ultimately benched for backup Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs. As for money, it’s difficult to say. Sanchez was awarded $5 million in his first year of arbitration, which shrunk to $1.85 million due to the pandemic. Spotrac estimates his 2021 earnings at $5.75 million, which is fair given his subpar performance from last campaign.

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All in all, expect Sanchez to be the most heavily scrutinized player on the team once spring training comes along. Forget Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s never-ending hailstorm of injuries. Don’t worry about the state of the pitching rotation and who lines up behind ace Gerrit Cole.

Sanchez and his ability to rebound from a bad season, yet again, will be the story.

This is something of a gamble by general manager Brian Cashman. The Yankees employ no promising catching prospects anywhere close to MLB-ready. Higashioka can step up and start if things become detrimental, but doesn’t sport the power that describes Sanchez’s presence in the lineup.

Simply put, the Yankees are at a crossroads. One path leads to Sanchez finally righting himself and potentially becoming New York’s next franchise catcher.

The other, however, leads to the struggles continuing and the Yankees needing to trade for a backstop, likely at the cost of top prospects. Hopefully, tendering Sanchez a contract proves to be the right move.

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Longtime MLB catcher Francisco Cervelli announces retirement

Longtime MLB catcher Francisco Cervelli is retiring from baseball, he announced on Instagram. Cervelli said he is hanging up his spikes because it’s time to “put my health before my career.”

The 34-year-old had seven documented concussions throughout his career, including one that ended his 2020 campaign in August. “Today, I retire happy and fully satisfied, because I gave my heart and soul to this wonderful game,” Cervelli wrote.

“I am retiring because the time has come to put my health before my career. For a long time, I put baseball first, through countless concussions and injuries, because this game was my life; my whole world. But it’s clear to me now that my future holds so much more. For the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff. It’s time.”

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Cervelli initially signed with the Yankees as a 16-year-old international free agent out of Venezuela in 2003.

An infielder as an amateur, he moved behind the plate in pro ball and reached the big leagues in 2008.

Cervelli spent 2008-14 with New York, mostly as a backup catcher, before moving on to the Pirates (2015-19), Braves (2019), and Marlins (2020).

Pittsburgh gave Cervelli his first extended opportunity as a starting catcher and he blossomed, hitting .270/.368/.384 with 25 home runs in 416 games from 2015-18.

He also rated well as a pitch-framer and became a fan favorite thanks to his high-energy, hard-nosed style of play. Cervelli was liberated in Aug. 2019 after the Pirates committed to Jacob Stallings behind the plate. Cervelli took a foul tip to the face mask on Aug. 22 this year and was diagnosed with a concussion. He landed on the injured list 15 times in parts of 13 seasons.

Cervelli retires as a career .268/.358/.382 hitter with 605 hits and 41 home runs in 730 games. He won a World Series ring with the 2009 Yankees and banked nearly $40 million in player contracts during his career.

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