February 2, 2023

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'Hopefully I'll be back': Pérez on injury, future

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PITTSBURGH — Roberto Pérez won’t play another game this season for the Pirates. He hopes his playing days in Pittsburgh haven’t come to an end.

After playing just a handful of games this year before sustaining a season-ending hamstring injury, Pérez expressed hours before Monday’s 2-1 win over the Rockies a desire to run it back and return to the Pirates next season.

“I feel like I owe them another year of me,” Pérez said. “I love it here. Great organization. They have treated me well. I love the coaching staff. I love the people around them. The players. The front office. They have been so good to me, and I feel like I owe them. Hopefully I’ll be back. I’m hoping to come back.”

Pérez — who turns 34 this offseason — played well enough, even in a small sample, for the Pirates’ front office to warrant considering giving him a second season.

In 21 games, Pérez slashed .233/.333/.367 with a 106 wRC+ and four defensive runs saved. His framing (81st percentile) was still top-notch. There’s also the incalculable value of guiding a young pitching staff as a veteran catcher. After two injury-riddled seasons in 2020 and 2021, Pérez was back to playing great baseball. Then, he felt the pop.

Pérez was attempting to go from first to third on a single to right field on May 7. He was running hard. As he geared up to round second base, he crashed to the dirt. He crawled back to second base to avoid being tagged out, desperately extending his right arm and slamming it on the base.

Pérez said that he had never been in more pain.

“I knew right away something was wrong and I was going to miss significant time,” Pérez said.

The question was how long. The answer, as has been answered by the surgery he underwent in recent days, was the rest of the season. By the time this campaign ends, Pérez will have played only about 25 percent of all possible games over the last three years.

“Man, I was having a good year,” Pérez said. “I knew what kind of player I was when I was healthy. I was getting on base. I was hitting the ball hard. Started to feel better at the plate and leading the pitching staff.”

Pérez may not suit up for the remainder of this season, but his influence will still be felt. The veteran catcher said he intends to do his rehab in Pittsburgh and be around the team when it’s in town, even joking with the pitching coaches about using PitchCom to call games from the dugout.

“If I go home, as much as I love my family, I’m going to go crazy if I stay at my house,” Pérez said. “Right now, for me, I would like to stay here around the team. Be around the team. Come to the ballpark whenever they’re here. Spend time with them. That’s my second family, you know what I mean? They want me here. I know they expressed that they want me around the team, so I’ll be here.”

While Pérez will be around the club in the coming months, his future beyond this season remains to be seen. He’d certainly be an asset to the pitching staff. There’s even a scenario, hypothetically speaking, where Pérez provides mentorship to Henry Davis, should the prospect play his way up to the Majors.

Regardless of what uniform he puts on next season, black and gold or otherwise, Pérez so badly wants to be healthy, to show the baseball world that he’s still one of the game’s best backstops.

“I can’t wait to be back,” Pérez said. “It sucks. I hate being hurt. It’s my third straight year of being hurt. I just want to have one year, at least, where I’m healthy and play 100 games like I did in 2019.”

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