Here’s the catch: Aces stow secret weapons behind plate

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Reno Aces catcher Michael Perez connects in Sunday’s win over Las Vegas.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

The Aces have a pair of royal flushes when it comes to catchers Anthony Recker and Michael Perez.

The one-two combo gives opposing pitchers headaches inside the batter’s box and behind the plate. Recker is connecting like a wrecking ball. In just 90 at-bats, he is hitting a scorching .333 while accumulating 26 RBIs, tied for first with Cody Decker with eight long bombs and a 1.102 OPS. To put that into perspective, teammate Ildemaro Vargas stands atop the Aces leaderboard with 28 RBIs in 226 at bats. Recker, 34, holds the longest RBI streak for the Aces, stretching seven days,. Through that period he hit 8-for-22 with 13 RBIs.

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Anthony Recker is batting a sizzling .333 for the Aces.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage file

“Recker is starting to get comfortable with his swing,” Aces skipper Greg Gross said. “He’s getting into some hitter friendly counts and he’s taken advantage in a big way. Hopefully, we see him continue to do the things he’s doing because it’s translating to wins.”

Gross is also impressed with Recker’s active voice and leadership during the game.

“A lot of the credit has to go with how the catcher calls the game and voices it to the players,” Gross said. “And Recker has done a great job of calling what’s going on with the guys on the field this series.”

Recker has racked up the frequent flier miles during his 14-year career. A native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Recker was an 18th round selection, 551st overall out Alvernia College by the Oakland A’s in the 2005 draft. Recker made his big league debut with Oakland in 2011, appearing in five games before he was optioned back down to their Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats.

After splitting time with Oakland and the Chicago Cubs in 2012, Recker found a home between the Big Apple and Sin City. He appeared in 140 games for the New York Mets, posting 15 home runs and 52 RBIs from 2013-15. Throughout his three years with New York, Recker was optioned down to Triple-A Las Vegas three times, playing in 32 games.

Recker traveled from the Big Apple to the Big Peach in 2016, posting a career-high .278 batting average with two homers and 15 RBIs with the Atlanta Braves. Throughout his 14-year tenure, Recker has registered 128 homers and 483 RBIs. But strikeouts have put a cap on Recker’s potential, with 906 career whiffs.

While Recker packs a punch, Perez, 25, is the guardian behind the dish. Known for his defensive prowess in the squat, Perez has allowed a team-leading 10 stolen bases on 17 attempts in 30 games this season. The Aces have the most wins (13) when Aces manager Greg Gross etches his name in the starting lineup. Perez is no slouch at the plate, either, in his first full season with Reno, belting three homers and 15 RBIs at a .298 average.

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

A native from Catano, Puerto Rico, Perez was a fifth-round selection by the D-backs in 2011 out of Colegio Vocacional, a vocational college located on the outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has logged quite a leap in the big leagues, making his Triple-A debut with the Aces on August 30, 2017. There, he made an immediate impact in just nine trips to the dish, launching a solo-shot to deep left field while adding four base hits. Arizona sees the potential in Perez and he’s stayed in Reno ever since. Perez is fresh off the disabled list, and Gross expects to see the continued growth in his game.

“Michael is doing a good job of letting the game come to him,” Gross said. “And for a young guy, that’s huge. He’s really starting to pick his spots on when to impact some plays defensively and at the plate sometimes. We’re glad to have him back and see his full potential this season.”

Nothing has changed for Recker and Perez. They just keep swinging, working and communicating. The rest is expected to work itself out.

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In his first start with the Aces this season, Joel Payamps didn’t allow a hit until the fouth inning.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Aces win series with Vegas

Three-run innings in the second and seventh ultimately propelled Reno 8-4 over Las Vegas. With the win, the Aces took the series, 3-2, and are headed off to Nashville on Tuesday, June 5.

Kevin Cron crushed his seventh deep fly of the season 396 feet to left-center, making that four in his last nine games. Rey Fuentes added 2 RBIs off a triple to the gap in right-center.

Aces hurler Joel Payamps made his first start on the mound this season with 5,427 in attendance. Payamps, 24, was 3-2 with a 3.52 ERA with Double-A Jackson. All 15 of his game this season have been in relief. He went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 10 punchouts with Reno last season. Payamps pitched four scoreless innings, surrendering just one hit and two walks with six strikeouts. UNR alum Braden Shipley added his third win of the season, pitching two innings in relief.

Tomas gets tossed: After an RBI triple in the second inning,  Aces’ left fielder Yasmany Tomas was called out on strikes twice in a row. After the second strikeout, he offered some few words to umpire Mike Cascioppo and was ejected. Tomas, who has a multi-million dollar big league contract, is hitting just .238 with two homers and 18 RBIs. Tomas is owed $42.5 million over the next three seasons from the D-backs after signing a massive six-year deal worth $68.5 in 2014

Koch blanks Marlins’ offense: Former Reno Aces starting pitcher Matt Koch tossed seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in a 6-1 Diamondbacks victory over Miami. In eight starts this season, Koch has a 4-3 record and 3.76 ERA in 48 innings pitched in the desert. Koch started one game for the Aces this season.

News and notes: Kristopher Negron’s 13 career triples with the Aces places him sixth all-time in team history. …  Kevin Cron has scored eight runs and has 16 RBIs since May 22.

On deck: The Aces (25-33) will hit the road and start seven-game road trip in Nashville (28-27) on Tuesday. The Aces will return home to face-off against the Iowa Cubs June 13.

-Isaiah Burrows

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In the dugout, Kevin Cron reacts as Kristopher Negron scores in Ildemaro Vargas’ double.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Kevin Cron watches his sixth home run of the season sail over the wall.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About Isaiah Burrows

Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is an incoming freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he will pursue a degree in journalism. His favorite sports teams include the Golden State Warriors (since 2010, not a fairweather fan), San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Rams.

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