Newbies Perez, Dickerson generating unexpected spark to Tribe lineup
At Columbus, Perez was batting .305 this eight home runs and 43 RBI. It was an impressive start but also incredible considering at this time last year Perez was suffering from Bell's Palsy, which is a sudden weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles.
CLEVELAND — One injury can create a domino effect that ripples across not just a lineup but the entire roster.
When Michael Bourn was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Sunday, Chris Dickerson was part of the Pirates organization in Triple-A Indianapolis and Roberto Perez was in Columbus. Both played pivotal roles in the Indians’ 9-3 win over the Yankees on Thursday at Progressive Field.
Dickerson, who was acquired on Monday, went 3 for 4 while Perez went 2 for 3 in his Major League debut, including a home run.
When the Indians traded for Dickerson, they designated backup catcher George Kottaras for assignment. Terry Francona was hoping to have Carlos Santana be the backup just in case but when Santana jammed his shoulder while fielding a grounder at first on Monday, Francona thought the time was right to call up Perez.
The original plan was to have Perez make his debut on Saturday against the White Sox, but when Wednesday’s game went 14 innings, it was moved up a couple days. That ended up benefitting Perez because Thursday’s starter was T.J. House, who Perez has extensive experience catching from their time together in the Indians’ system the past four years.
At Columbus, Perez was batting .305 this eight home runs and 43 RBI. It was an impressive start but also incredible considering at this time last year Perez was suffering from Bell’s Palsy, which is a sudden weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles. According to the Mayo Clinic, it affects 1 in 70 people in a lifetime.
Perez started to suffer from it shortly last June and was unable to close his left eye. He had to sleep with a towel on his face and ended up batting just .172. Perez’s condition wasn’t made public until this past April.
"That’s a tough thing when someone has an injury and it is not known to the public. He’s a trooper he battled the entire season," House said. "The progress he has made as a hitter, especially this year, is exceptional and his game calling qualities are A-plus."
After grounding to second and drawing a walk in his first two at-bats, Perez singled to left in the seventh and later scored on an Asdrubal Cabrera three-run triple to tie the game at three. The next inning with Dickerson on first, Perez drew a full count against Jim Miller but on the sixth pitch of the at-bat broke his last bat on a foul ball. Perez borrowed a bat from Asdrubal Cabrera, which was lighter than what he normally loses, and launched a 3-2 fastball that hit the railing atop the left-field bleachers.
Originally it umpires said it was a ground-rule double, but it was reversed to give Perez his first home run. He is the 10th in club history to homer in his Major League debut and the first since Kevin Kouzmanoff on Sept. 2, 2006 at Texas. It is the first time it has happened in Cleveland since Josh Bard on Aug. 23, 2002 against Seattle.
The Perez homer was part of a five-run eighth that broke the game open.
"They kept pounding me outside with fastballs but (on the home run) I finally got one inside that I could hit," Perez said. "As soon as I hit it, I thought I hit it well. We had to wait for the review and when they overturned it, it was crazy.
Added Francona: "He was so nervous, jumpy and excited that when he got someone else’s bat he started to put the donut on and the umpires were trying to hurry him up,. Guys were all over him and he got flustered. Then the next swing he hits the ball out of the ballpark."
Perez also joins Bard, Ray Foster (1970), Gene Leek (1959) and Jim Hegan (1941) as the only Indians batters to collect two hits, including a home run, in their Major League debut.
"I don’t think I was nervous but anxious. I know it’s the big leagues but I was just trying to calm down and put the ball in play," Perez said. "It was good to get my first hit out of the way in the seventh. I wanted to get another hit, which I did. I thought I had some good at-bats."
With the Tribe down 3-0 in the seventh, Dickerson led off the inning with a single to left, which was his second hit of the night. He finished 3 for 4 with a double and two runs scored, which is his first three-hit game since May 21 last year when he was with Baltimore. That also came against the Yankees.
Since arriving in the clubhouse on Monday, Dickerson has made the most of his opportunity. He has started in left and reached base all four games, going 7 for 15 with four runs scored.
"I have been in this position before and I know to try and take it easy, not do too much in making a first impression. Just make things simple," said Dickerson, who is with his fifth Major League team. "I was doing well in Indianapolis and am just trying not to do anything different. Just put good swings on the ball and be patient."
With Michael Brantley in center and Dickerson in left, the Indians were able to gain a split of the four-game series against the Yankees. With Bourn on the DL, Jason Kipnis has been moved up to the leadoff spot and is 7 for 15 with five stolen bases over the past three games.
The Indians are 4-3 on the current homestand going into a three-game series with the White Sox before the All-Star break.