SARASOTA, Fla. - With six catchers in the Orioles’ spring camp, it can be hard to stand out among the group this early. But veteran Carlos Pérez took advantage of the one chance he’s gotten so far here on Sunday afternoon.
He batted in the last of the fourth against Toronto with the Orioles down 5-4. He hit a booming two-run double to center for the lead and the Orioles never trailed again in a 9-8 win over the Blue Jays. That provided them a 2-0 start before Monday’s loss to Minnesota.
Signed by the Orioles Jan. 7 to a minor league deal, Pérez has made 177 career big league starts behind the plate, the most of any catcher in O’s camp. Jesús Sucre, with 180, has him by three, but remains out of camp to so far due to visa issues.
Pérez, 28, from Valencia, Venezuela, is working on learning his new pitching staff while also trying to do enough to impress the coaches to win a roster spot.
“There is a good opportunity here and it’s great to be here,” he said this morning in the clubhouse. “Everyone wants the opportunity to play in the majors. And opportunity is why I came here. When you come here it’s just about working and playing hard. And you’ll show the coaches that you can play if you play hard and see what happens.”
He’s a catcher, so he knows defense is job one for him. He’s got a solid arm. One scout put a 60 grade on it and he’s known as a solid pitch-framer.
“I feel I can play really good defense, and am working on my offense. Feel real comfortable in my defense, and that is one of my strengths,” said Pérez, who was an American League Gold Glove finalist in 2016 with the Los Angeles Angels. Salvador Pérez of the Royals was the winner that year.
Last season, Carlos Pérez hit .143 (10-for-70) in 75 plate appearances between Atlanta and Texas. He’s a career .215 hitter in 212 big league games. In 26 games in the minors in 2018 he hit .305/.362/.537. He’s a career .290/.368/.421 minor league batter with a career. 301 average in 280 games at the Triple-A level.
Coming up through the minors, Pérez was a team’s top 30 prospect five times. He was rated the Blue Jays’ No. 10 prospect at the end of 2009, No. 9 a year later and No. 14 at the end of 2011. He was the Astros’ No. 28 after 2012 and the No. 25 prospect for the Angels after the 2014 season.
Veteran players who have been through several spring trainings know exactly what they need to do to get ready for a new season. But when there are six catchers in camp, someone in Pérez’s position knows he had better put up some numbers while the getting-ready process is happening.
“When you come here it’s just about working and playing hard. And you’ll show the coaches that you can play if you play hard and see what happens,” he said.
A reminder: I’ll broadcast today’s game live beginning at 1 p.m. on Orioles.com and the MLB At Bat app. Tune in later today for the Orioles and Rays live from Sarasota, with Mike Wright starting versus Ryan Merritt.