Indians catcher Roberto Pérez has finger surgery, out months

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND — A tiny crack in Roberto Perez‘s finger has turned into a large problem for the Indians.

Cleveland’s two-time Gold Glove catcher will miss at least two months after surgery on a fractured right ring finger. There is no definitive timeline for Perez’s recovery, but the Indians are planning to be without him for a significant period.

“It’s not weeks,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It’s months.”

Perez played in pain for several weeks with the fracture, which happened when he got crossed up by reliever James Karinchak on April 14 in Chicago. Perez broke the finger on his throwing hand when he caught the pitch barehanded.

Perez left the Indians’ series this week in Kansas City to visit hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, who placed three pins in the catcher’s finger to stabilize it.

Graham did surgery on Perez’s broken right thumb almost exactly five years ago. Perez missed two months after that procedure.

Perez’s loss is a big blow to the Indians, who entered Friday night’s series opener against Cincinnati leading the AL Central after winning nine of 11. The 32-year-old is one of baseball’s best defensive catchers and handles the Indians’ strong pitching staff.

Austin Hedges will get the bulk of starts while Perez is sidelined with Rene Rivera serving as his backup. Rivera had three hits in his first start for Cleveland as the Indians completed their first four-game sweep in Kansas City since 1960.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Francona said. “I think it’s easy to say well, Rene had three hits yesterday, why don’t you play him today? But that was his first game that he’s actually caught nine innings. So, we don’t want to overdo him either.

“So, we’ll try to use good judgement. My guess is you’ll see Hedges catch more, maybe not quite as much as Roberto was.”

Perez’s batting average dropped nearly 100 points after he got hurt. Francona said he could tell Perez was pulling off pitches he would normally swing at, and the injury clearly bothered him when he had to make hard throws to bases.

Perez worked hard on his body this past offseason, dropping 25 pounds. He was slowed by a shoulder injury last season, but came to training camp in great shape.

He’s batting just .131 with three homers and nine RBIs in 19 games.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.