Royals manager hopes to cut workload for catcher Perez

ALAN ESKEW (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -- Salvador Perez set major league records last year, catching 158 games and 1,389 2-3 innings, including 15 games and 141 innings in the playoffs.

After the World Series, Perez joined a major league all-star team in November touring Japan, adding to his record number of knee bends.

Kansas City manager Ned Yost vows Perez's workload will be reduced this season as pitchers and catchers reported Thursday to the spring training camp of the defending American League champions.

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The Royals have six catchers in camp, but resting Perez once the regular season starts will not be easy. Perez has been selected an AL All-Star the past two years, while earning two Gold Gloves.

''How do I resist the temptation to write Salvador's name in the lineup 150 times? I don't know yet,'' Yost said. ''It is hard to take him out. It's hard to do. We've got to find ways and I don't know how we're going to do it yet.''

Perez wore down and faded offensively in the stretch. After hitting .283 with 11 home runs and a .437 slugging percentage before the All-Star game, he hit .236 with six homers and a .360 slugging percentage after it. After hitting .347 in June, Perez dropped to .229 in August and .190 in his final 22 games. He drew only three walks the second half, a .236 on-base percentage.

Perez, who popped up foul for the final out of the World Series with the tying run at third base, hit .207 in 15 playoff games. He struck out 10 times and walked once. Keeping Perez from tiring is a Royals priority in 2015.

''It will be one of the hardest things that we try to figure out all year,'' Yost said. ''How we keep balance there.''

Perez started 143 games behind the plate during the regular season. Brett Hayes started 14 before he was replaced by Eric Kratz, who was acquired in a July 29 trade with Toronto. Kratz started five games.

There's a huge drop off to Kratz, who has a .219 average in 176 games in the majors, and rookie Francisco Pena, the son of New York Yankees coach Tony Pena. They are competing for the backup job.

''The easiest way to do it is just assign a starter (to a backup catcher) and that way Sal's getting a break every five days,'' Yost said. ''But there are other ways, too, where we just make it a mandatory off day. If we have a day game the next day (after a night game), give him that day off.''

The Royals earned a wild-card berth last year to end a 29-year playoff drought, so Yost was reluctant to rest Perez.

''Your mindset changes,'' the manager said. ''Last year we were trying to turn the corner, so you go into spring training trying to win as many games as you can and make the playoffs. Then you make the playoffs and you are going deep into October. So you better plan on him to be strong and healthy at the end of the season, where you were just planning to get to the end of the season.''

The pitching staff logged a 3.26 ERA with Perez catching. He also threw out 25 runners attempting to steal, plus picked off four runners.

''He just works so well with guys,'' said Yost, a former major league catcher.

The rare days Perez is not in the lineup, he wanders over to Yost's office, informing him he can play.

''We've dealt with that the last three years,'' Yost said. ''That's not going to come into your decision because you've still got to do what's right for him and the team in the long run.''

Also Thursday, the Royals announced that they had signed left-hander Franklin Morales to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to big league camp. The 29-year-old Morales went 6-9 with a 5.37 ERA in 38 games, 22 starts, last season with Colorado.

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