Trio of veteran backstops battling to back up Perez
Hayes -- named for George Brett -- competing against Kottaras, Moore in camp
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- One was named for George Brett, one speaks fluent Greek, one was Alex Gordon's college teammate.
Now those three catchers -- Brett Hayes, George Kottaras and Adam Moore, respectively -- are competing to be the Royals' backup to Salvador Perez.
They'll get ample opportunity, too, in the next several days while Perez is away playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, opening up extra playing time. That probably won't be the case once the regular season begins because manager Ned Yost envisions Perez starting as many as 150 of the 162 games.
But there's got to be a reserve who's talented enough to take over in case Perez happened to be injured.
"We've got different options," Yost said. "We've got Brett Hayes, who's a really good catch-and-throw guy, we've got George Kottaras, who's is a little bit more offensive-minded, but can still catch-and-throw, and Adam Moore, who's kind of a balance of both. So we look at what might be our best option and go with that, but all three of those guys could fit into that."
Last year, the Royals had to scramble when Perez went down with a knee injury in Spring Training and missed almost half the season. They had Brayan Pena but, beyond him, they were thin because Manny Pina also was out with knee surgery. Finally, Humberto Quintero was acquired from Houston and he split the job with Pena until Perez returned.
The Royals were determined that wouldn't happen again. Waiver claims brought Moore from Seattle in July, Hayes from Miami in November and Kottaras from Oakland in January. In addition, Pina recovered and was re-signed to a Minor League contract.
Hayes was named for Brett who, conveniently, is in the Royals' training camp as an instructor.
"He's awesome, he's been around every day. I've talked to him a few times about hitting, he's always around the cage," Hayes said.
This was the first time that Hayes had met Brett.
|"We've got different options. We've got Brett Hayes, who's a really good catch-and-throw guy, we've got George Kottaras, who's is a little bit more offensive-minded, but can still catch-and-throw, and Adam Moore, who's kind of a balance of both. So we look at what might be our best option and go with that, but all three of those guys could fit into that."|
|-- Royals manager Ned Yost|
"My dad named me after him, which is kind of cool," said Hayes. "Obviously I was old enough to have seen him play and my dad talked very highly of him. He's a Hall of Famer for a reason, so it's fun to be able to come here and pick his brain a little bit and learn from the best."
There's a Kansas City connection. Hayes' father, Tim, was a shortstop drafted by the Royals in January 1975, but he was injured and never played pro ball. He became a mortgage banker in California instead.
Hayes is competing for the same job he filled the last two seasons for the Marlins. He knew he wasn't going to challenge Perez.
"The rumor was he's going to be a perennial All-Star once he becomes healthy," Hayes said. "I didn't know what to expect when I got here, but everything they said about him is true. On top of that, he's a good character guy, a good teammate and I hope that all comes true because he deserves it. He works hard and he's a good player."
No, even though Kottaras' first name is George, he was not named for Brett. He's pretty sure that his Greece-born parents weren't aware of the Hall of Famer when their son was born in Scarbourough, Ontario, Canada.
"It's cool, though, that my name's George and there's Brett -- a 'George Brett' in the clubhouse," Kottaras said.
Kottaras grew up speaking Greek in his household. He also played for Greece's baseball team in the 2004 Olympics.
"That was a lot fun. It was in Athens, so we were the host country and it was an amazing experience," he said. "And I could speak the language so I was kind of like a tour guide while we were over there."
Kottaras has been a backup in Boston, Milwaukee and Oakland. A left-handed batter, he's thumped 24 home runs in a total of 592 at-bats, all but three against right-handed pitchers. He even hit for the cycle for the Brewers in 2011 at Houston.
In 2009 with the Red Sox, Kottaras became knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's personal catcher.
"I used a big glove, I had to. I used his old softball mitt that he carries around and it was really beat up, but it was perfect. It was like a pillow so the ball went in it and just kinda sucked it up. It definitely helped with receiving. It was a great experience catching for Wake," Kottaras said. "That was my rookie year and he was like 41, 42 years old, so I learned a lot, having [Jason] Varitek ahead of me and learning about preparation and how to play the game."
Moore was called up from Omaha by Kansas City last September and got into four games, finally getting into a game with Gordon. That's something that never happened when they were teammates at the University of Nebraska.
"It was '04-'05 and it was probably two weeks before the season opener and, in our first intrasquad, I torn my meniscus in my left knee so I didn't play," Moore said.
Moore was strictly a spectator, red-shirting while Gordon played. Then Moore transferred to the University of Texas-Arlington and was drafted in 2006's sixth round by Seattle. Eventually he reached the Majors with the Mariners in 2009 and got into 60 games in 2010. Right knee surgery cost him most of 2011 and he sustained a wrist fracture last year in Spring Training.
Like Hayes and Kottaras, he's used to scrapping for a job. Moore and Hayes each has made an offensive impression with two home runs, but defense is the prime attribute for a backup.
"That's the main gig around here -- catching and getting to know the pitchers, understanding what they like and want to do in certain situations," Moore said. "It comes down to defense -- and offense always helps -- but it comes down to knowing the pitching staff, stopping everything in the dirt and controlling the running game or whatever it may be."
Pina, Max Ramirez and Julio Rodriguez are the other catchers in camp, but Hayes, Kottaras and Moore are the front-runners. Yost doesn't anticipate making a decision until very late in camp, but the battle is on.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.