Chicago White Sox fans know all to well the damage Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez can do when he comes to bat.
The seven-time All-Star credits new Sox manager Pedro Grifol with aiding his development behind the plate and in the batter’s box.
“He always said ‘good players make good coaches,’ but I think it’s the opposite. I think good coaches make a good players, and he’s the best,” Perez said during a video conference call Thursday. “That’s why today I can say that it’s like I’m here because the way Pedro helped me and the way he talked to me and the relationship I have with him. He always taught me the right way. Today I can say he helped me a lot.”
Grifol spent 10 seasons in the Royals organization before being introduced as the Sox manager on Nov. 3. His roles included serving as the special assignment/hitting coach (2013-14), catching coach (2014-17) and quality control/catching coach (2018-19). He became the the bench coach in 2020.
Grifol was on the staff of the 2014 team that lost to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series and the 2015 team that beat the New York Mets for their first championship since 1985.
“I’ve know Pedro for the last 10 years, so I know to be a manager, I know what that means to him,” Perez, 31, said. “It’s one of his dreams, and no doubt he was ready five years ago. He was ready for the opportunity. The White Sox gave the job to Pedro and I know the way he likes to work. I know the players, they’re going to be happy. He’s a great guy. He’s not going to have any problem communicating with the players and that’s the key — keep everybody together and that’s the way teams win.
“He can communicate and that’s how everything starts. When you can knock on the door and go talk to your manager and you know he’s going to listen, they’re going to play for you, they’re going to do their best on the field for you.”
Communication was the biggest takeaway Sox starter Dylan Cease had during a conversation with Grifol.
“He was very adamant that we were going to be having a lot of communication and building relationships,” Cease said during a video conference call Wednesday. “So with all the positive things I’ve heard about him and him having that desire, it’s really exciting. From what I’ve heard, I think he’s going to be really good for us.”
During Grifol’s time as the Royals catching coach, Perez was selected to start five straight All-Star Games (2014-18). He earned the Rawlings Gold Glove four times (2014-16, 2018) and was a Louisville Silver Slugger twice (2016, ‘18).
In 2018, Perez did not commit an error in 96 games and threw out 25 of 52 attempted base stealers.
“He always told me ... it doesn’t matter who you are, just take care of your body, prepare yourself,” Perez said. “It’s not easy to play one season in the big leagues, so you need to prepare yourself. It’s part of the sacrifice. If you want to be one of the best, you have to sacrifice.
“No matter what’s the score, you’ve got to do your job. ‘I don’t care if you’re winning by 10 runs or losing by 10 runs, you’ve got to keep your concentration.’ He always told me, ‘I know it’s hard to do it, it’s easy to say, but hard to do it. You’ve got to keep your mind concentrated to the last out.’ ”
Grifol expressed appreciation for the catcher during his introductory awa conference, saying, “I want to thank the staff and players in Kansas City the last 10 seasons, especially Salvador Perez.”
Perez said Grifol is “like my dad. I love him a lot. I love his family.”
Perez imagines that first meeting when the two are in opposing dugouts — whether it’s spring training or May 8 at Kauffman Stadium — will be “a little bit emotional.”
“I hope I can go there and give him a hug, tell him I love him and come back and try to beat the White Sox,” Perez said with a laugh.