SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals catcher Brayan Pena said his heart went out to Salvador Perez, his friend and fellow backstop, but also emphasized that he was prepared to run the pitching staff while Perez recovers from an injured knee.
"I knew from the beginning that this was his team, and I was ready to back him up," Pena said. "It's unfortunate that this injury happened, but me personally, I'm ready. I feel I know these guys on our pitching staff. I've been working with them the last couple of years, and I feel right now that we're going to be very good. With our bullpen and [Bruce] Chen, [Luke] Hochevar and [Jonathan] Sanchez, I think we're going to be good and we'll try to hold on until the big man comes back."
Pena was supposed to be the backup for Perez, one of last year's rookie sensations, but the situation changed with the announcement on Wednesday that Perez would undergo knee surgery.
Pena is an energetic, enthusiastic athlete.
"Every time I get to the field and see my name in the lineup, I'm thinking about how can I make my team better?" Pena said. "How can I help my team to win? And that's been part of my game plan from the get-go."
He's been working closely with catching coach Chino Cadahia and advisor Jason Kendall.
"My main goal is to make sure our pitchers feel comfortable and feel that they can trust me," Pena said.
He's got the endorsement of general manager Dayton Moore.
"Brayan Pena has emerged as someone who is better than just a backup. He gives you good at-bats and a lot of energy. We felt we had a real good catching tandem with Salvy and Brayan as it was," Moore said. "Right now Brayan Pena is the guy, but we need to come up with somebody to go with him."
Moore is in the market for catching, but Chen has pitched to Pena frequently in the last two years and feels he can do the job.
"Obviously, Salvador is very big component and him getting hurt is going to put our team in a tough position," Chen said. "But Brayan Pena can step in and do the job until Salvador comes back. From what I heard, he's going to miss some time but it's not going to be three or four months. Salvador is a big part of our team but if anybody can step in, Brayan can do the job."