After six seasons, the Phillies have released utility good guy Tomas Perez.
Having Perez, a switch-hitter that could confidently field all four infield positions, made life easier for more than one manager, and his presence in the dugout reminded teammates the game was meant to be more than just business.
Perez was a fine defender and one of the most versatile bench players the Phillies have ever had. In 206 chances last season, he converted 167 balls hit his way into outs and had no errors. No matter how poorly he hit (.233 BA, .277 SLG last season), his sure-handed defense partially made up for it.
It wasn’t enough. In the offseason, the Phillies made a push to improve their bench, signing not one, but two utility infielders, including switch-hitter Abraham Nunez and third baseman Alex Gonzalez. Sunday's trade for David Dellucci bumped Perez from the roster, forcing his outright release.
His personality will be harder to replace. Remembered for his trademark shaving cream pies, Perez enjoyed the game like I would enjoy the game if I was given a spot on the bench, where you could always spot him eating seeds, gazing at fans and cheering on teammates.
In my final trip to Citizen’s Bank Park last season, Perez got into the game at first. During the break between innings, they aired a Perez highlight reel on the big screen. It was a striking the number of times he delivered a big hit, big catch or memorable moment. From my seat behind the Phillies dugout, I watched as Perez watched his own highlights while taking grounders, a smile on his face that told me that after 10 big-league seasons, he was still humbled to be there. At 32, I hope he can catch on somewhere and bless another team with the same thing.