Replay gives Tribe's Perez first big league homer
Rookie catcher's initial MLB long ball comes inning after first career hit
CLEVELAND -- It took seven pitches, over two minutes of crew chief review and a borrowed bat before Roberto Perez could close the books on the fourth plate appearance of his first Major League game. It was all worth the wait in the end.
Perez indeed had his first big league home run, capping off a memorable debut that helped power the Indians to a 9-3 rout over the Yankees on Thursday night. The rookie catcher lifted a full-count fastball that skimmed over the left-field wall for an electrifying two-run blast -- one he will never forget.
"I still can't believe it, man," Perez said. "It was awesome to be out there with these guys. That was a great moment."
With one out in the eighth inning, Perez found himself in a true back-and-forth battle at the plate. Having already broken two bats in his first two plate appearances -- the only two he had readily available in the dugout -- the 25-year-old was forced to use the one Asdrubal Cabrera had so graciously lent him.
"I always bring out two bats," said Perez, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday. "Cabrera just gave me his. It was a lighter bat than I use."
Perez was in a quick 0-2 count against Yankees reliever Jim Miller after fouling off a pair of fastballs, but he then worked his way to a full count on three straight balls. On the penultimate pitch of the at-bat, he hustled his way to second base on what turned out to be a deep foul ball.
He was, as Tribe manager Terry Francona called it, "flustered."
"He was so nervous and jumpy and excited," Francona said, "that when he got somebody else's bat finally, he started to put the donut on. You know how the umpires are about keeping the game moving. Guys were all over him. Then the very next swing, he hits the ball out of the ballpark."
The ball glanced off the top of the outfield wall, ricocheted off the railing and careened back onto the grass, causing the umpires to initially call the play a double. But after two minutes and 27 seconds of replay review, the call was overturned. Perez rose to his feet, rounded the bases and then, of course, celebrated.
By the time Perez's big first game had wrapped up, the young backstop had gone 2-for-3 with a walk to become just the 10th player in Indians history to go yard in a big league debut. He is also the first Cleveland batter to have at least two hits, two RBIs, a homer and a walk in his first career game since Gene Leek managed the same feat on April 22, 1959.
"I don't think I was nervous," said Perez. "I was anxious. I just wanted to be out there. I wasn't trying to do too much. I know it's the big leagues, but I was trying to calm down."
But after recording his first Major League hit in the previous inning, Perez seemed anything but serene as he clawed through his at-bat with Miller. And the reaction from the 28,334 in attendance once the umpires green-lighted Perez's blast was, of course, quite the opposite of calm.
"The home run was unbelievable," outfielder Chris Dickerson said. "I told him, 'Could you have picked a more dramatic home run for your first time? With the replay and all that?'"
"You've got to feel great for the guy."
All debuts are memorable. Perez's should be unforgettable.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.