SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Royals catcher Salvador Perez underwent Tommy John surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow, a procedure that will sideline the six-time All-Star for the upcoming season.
The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers’ team physician. The recovery time is usually about a year, meaning Perez could be back for opening day next season.
“We fully expect Salvy to return to our club once healthy and continue to play with the passion and enjoyment that he has played with since joining our organization,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “His leadership and production on the field will not be easy to replicate, but as a team we will embrace this unforeseen challenge and are excited for the 2019 championship season.”
Perez hurt his elbow during drills last Wednesday. He informed Royals trainer Nick Kenney about the pain the following day and underwent an MRI exam that revealed the tear. Perez then headed to Los Angeles for a second opinion Tuesday that confirmed the extent of the injury.
Perez has been among the game’s most durable catchers, appearing in at least 129 games each of the past six seasons. He hit a career-low .235 last season, but he still hit 27 homers and had 80 RBIs for a club that was only beginning a massive rebuilding effort.
His leadership as a former World Series MVP was expected to be crucial this season, and manager Ned Yost said Wednesday that Perez can still provide that even though he won’t be on the field.
“We had people come in last night and they want to play the ‘Woe’s me.’ Yeah, we don’t like it,” Yost said, “but we don’t play the ‘Woe’s me.’ We move on. Salvy is going to be with us all year long. He is going to be there doing his rehab — the rehab is a difficult process.
“If somebody were to tell me we were going to lose Salvy and we can’t see him all year long,” Yost added, “that would be a little ‘Woe’s me.’ But he’s going to be there to support his teammates.”
Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are expected to replace Perez this season, and both offer unique skillsets. Gallagher is such a highly regarded pitch-framer that other clubs inquired about trading for him this past offseason, while Viloria is raw and inexperienced but talented at the plate.
The Royals are also trying first baseman Frank Schwindel behind the plate, largely because his bat has proven to be so dynamic in the minor leagues. Schwindel played catcher in college at St. John’s and early in his minor league career, but he has been stuck behind other prospects at first base.
If he can settle behind the plate again, he may have found his path to the big leagues.
“I mean, I’ve watched him. He’s caught before,” said Yost, a former big league catcher. “That’s why when this happened, ‘Let’s take a look at Schwindel.’ He receives the ball fine. If he didn’t have the bat, I don’t think we’d be thinking about it.”
Schwindel hit .286 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs at Triple-A Omaha last season.
Martin Maldonado is the only other veteran catcher that has yet to sign with a club this spring, but he may not be a substantial upgrade over what is already on the roster. He might also run counter to the youth movement that the Royals are currently experiencing.
Whether the Royals inquire about other veterans, particularly as roster cuts begin to happen in big league camps, is something Yost will address down the road.
“Right now I’m just going day-to-day with it,” Yost said. “Our focus is what we have in front of us until something presents itself, then we’ll evaluate it and go from there.”