Indians catcher Roberto Perez pain-free again; Daniel Johnson impresses but sent to alternate site

Ryan Lewis
rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com
Progressive Field was empty for an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Monday, July 20, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND — Roberto Perez has at times been biking from his home in Avon to Progressive Field for summer camp. It’s a relief for the Indians catcher, considering he played through injuries for much of a successful, but at times painful 2019.

Perez took full advantage of increased playing time last season after the Indians dealt Yan Gomes to the Washington Nationals. Perez won an American League Gold Glove for his work behind the plate and had his best offensive season, hitting .239 with a .774 OPS while slugging 24 home runs, more than he had in his career entering the year.

A large share of that production was done with Perez banged up. He then had ankle surgery just after the season ended.

Now healthy, and in part thanks to having a lot of time on his hands due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Perez has taken to bike riding, a known hobby of first base/catching coach Sandy Alomar Jr.

“He’s the one helping me with some tips,” Perez said via a Zoom call earlier in summer camp. “It’s been good. Biking takes my mind out of this whole thing, helps clear my head. It’s been tough, especially by this time always playing. It’s good you have your family every day but, at the same time, this is my second family and I love being in the field and in the clubhouse sharing every day with them.”

For the first time in quite a while, Perez is playing pain-free. The Indians took note quickly in summer camp.

"[Last week] he said to me, we’re sitting in the dugout and he said, ’I really feel good,’ ” said manager Terry Francona via a Zoom call. ”And I know nobody’s gonna get him mixed up with [Bradley] Zimmer or somebody like that, but the night before he had gotten down the line pretty good and I said, ’Berto, it’s noticeable. It really is.’ And it’s nice to see him smiling and feeling good because I think last year, there were a lot of games that were really tough for him to play in, and he played.“

Roster moves

The cuts to get down to the 30-man active roster for Opening Day continue. On Monday, the Indians informed outfielder Daniel Johnson and reliever David Hernandez they would be heading to the team’s alternate site in Eastlake.

As he has with regular spring trainings in the past, Johnson made an impression on Francona and the Indians coaching staff with a strong camp. Johnson, 25, continues to knock on the door to the majors, though a crowded outfield picture that now includes a healthy Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer as more veteran candidates left no room.

“We told him coming into spring training this year in Goodyear, we had him behind a significant amount of other guys just because of where he was in his career,” Francona said. “And then coming into this camp, he made it really difficult. We tried to explain to him that sometimes you’re sending guys down and it’s crushing. Other times, you’re just informing them that this might not be their time yet, but it could be right on the horizon. I didn’t want it to get lost in the disappointment of not making the club how impressive he’s been.”

The Indians on Monday also informed catcher Beau Taylor that although he wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster he’ll remain at the Cleveland site to serve as the team’s taxi squad catcher when it’s on the road. Teams can bring three players as a taxi squad for road series in case someone becomes injured or ill. One of those players must be a catcher.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.