Salvador Perez appeared in view late Monday afternoon, clutching a bat in his hands as he zigzagged around a table inside the tight quarters of the visitors clubhouse. Wearing athletic shorts and a dry-fit top, the Royals’ catcher was in search of equipment he had not used in 10 days. He turned toward teammate Alex Gordon.
Moments later, Perez headed to an indoor batting cage and took 10 to 15 swings at “30 to 40 percent,” the latest mile-marker in his return from a strained right intercostal muscle.
“I feel pretty good,” Perez said, standing inside the first-base dugout after the workout. “I didn’t feel any pain or anything. That’s good.”
In addition to taking swings for the first time since going on the disabled list, Perez tested his side by catching a bullpen session from starting pitcher Danny Duffy. That, too, offered an encouraging sign.
The Royals are still exercising caution when projecting when their All-Star catcher might return to the field. But in a pregame interview, manager Ned Yost offered perhaps the most optimistic public statement yet, saying that Perez could maybe catch a major-league game right now.
“He’s making really good progress,” Yost said. “We’re not putting a timetable on it.”
For now, Perez feels minimal discomfort in his side when catching. The question will be how quickly he can return to swinging a bat at 100 percent. It was an awkward swing that first produced a strained intercostal muscle during a game at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 4. To minimize the chance of another injury, Perez said he will take it slow.
“It’s about how I feel,” he said. “I don’t want to get hurt again, because if I get hurt again, I think I’m done for the season. I got one opportunity to finish the season. I have to be smart.”
In the days after the injury, the Royals estimated that Perez could miss anywhere from two to three weeks. Friday will mark two weeks since he initially sustained the strain. .
On Monday, Perez missed his 10th straight game as the Royals (59-58) opened a three-game series against the A’s in Oakland. His team entered the day 3-6 since he went on the disabled list, suffering through a five-game losing streak that continued during the first three days of an eight-game road trip.
“It seems like it’s been a year since he got hurt,” Yost said.
The Royals want to get Perez back “as soon as we can,” Yost said. And Tuesday will mark the first day he would be eligible to return from the disabled list. But for now, Monday represented just another step.
Perez will continue to take more and more swings this week. He is hopeful his side continues to feel healthy.
“I think I can catch right now,” Perez said. “The worst part of the thing is hitting. You just got to wait and see how it’s going to respond.”