CLEVELAND -- Despite Roberto Perez’s play throughout the stretch run of the 2016 regular season and during the Cleveland Indians’ journey to Game 7 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs, manager Terry Francona made the decision to start Yan Gomes behind the play at the start of 2017.
But there were plenty of at-bats to go around and runners to throw out for both players, as they each had over 210 qualified trips to the plate and sterling fielding percentages over .990, which is why Francona is confident a catcher-by-committee situation will benefit the Indians in 2018.
“We’re fortunate we have two good catchers,” Francona said. “They both want to be considered ‘the No. 1.’ I get it. My guess is that it’ll work itself out. One is probably catching more than the other, but nobody’s not going to play.”
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In 856.0 innings over 103 games, including 96 starts, Gomes registered 938 putouts and had 60 assists against nine errors. Gomes helped turn five double plays and caught 24 of the 57 would-be base stealers on the way to a .991 fielding percentage.
At the plate, Gomes hit .234 with 79 hits, including 15 doubles and 14 homers, with 56 RBI and 43 runs.
Perez played in 71 games behind the plate, collecting 664 putouts and assisting on 33 plays with only two errors. He threw out 13 of the 30 players who attempted to steal a base and posted a .997 fielding percentage.
Known far more for his defense, Perez had 44 hits, including 12 doubles and eight home runs, with 38 RBI and 22 runs scored over 215 at-bats to go along with 26 walks against 71 strikeouts.
“Our guys are too close together, where we need them to play more than that, so they will,” Francona said.
The Indians’ depth at catcher is not limited to Perez and Gomes, as 22-year old backstop Francisco Mejia made his much-anticipated Major League Baseball debut when the rosters expanded last September.
Mejia, who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus Monday, registered two hits with an RBI and run scored in 13 at-bats with the Indians last September.
“He’s a really well-thought-of catcher,” Francona said of Mejia. “I don’t think he’s even been to Triple-A, so there’s nothing wrong with him getting some seasoning there.
“Then, if something happens to one of our guys, then we need to make the determination, ‘Is he ready to be in that role?’ That’s why you bring in guys like (Ryan) Hanigan, to see if somebody gets hurt, is it better to have him catch and let Mejia kind of finish off his development.”
With the current log-jam behind the plate, the Indians experimented with playing Mejia at third base during the Arizona Fall League. The thinking behind that decision was the chance at getting Mejia to the Major League level in short order if his bat continues to develop at that current rate.
In 1,659 plate appearances in the minors, Mejia has 439 hits, including 140 for extra bases (89 doubles, 11 triples, 40 home runs), 245 runs batted in and 208 runs scored.
“He played a little bit of third in the Fall League, and what we told him was, ‘It’s not an indictment on his catching,’” Francona said. “We actually think he’s a really good catcher, and he’s getting better, but with his bat, we’re trying to find a way to maybe get him to the Major Leagues a little bit quicker.”