Royals coming to grips with possibility that Salvador Perez might miss entire season

Royals C Salvador Perez addresses elbow injury, potential surgery

Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez and head athletic trainer Nick Kenney discuss Perez's elbow injury and the possibility of him having season-ending surgery from the team's facility in Arizona on Friday, March 1, 2019.
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Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez and head athletic trainer Nick Kenney discuss Perez's elbow injury and the possibility of him having season-ending surgery from the team's facility in Arizona on Friday, March 1, 2019.

Royals All-Star catcher and five-time Gold Glove winner Salvador Perez remains hopeful that he’ll be able to play this season, but he also knows that he has to be prepared for the possibility of missing the entire 2019 campaign.

Perez spoke with reporters at the team facility in Arizona on Saturday, one day after the team announced that an MRI revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.

He’ll travel to Los Angeles next week to receive a second opinion from surgeon Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday.

Royals manager Ned Yost wasn’t willing to look down the road beyond Tuesday’s second opinion, but Perez knows he may need season-ending Tommy John surgery that would likely come with a recovery timetable of a year.

“It’s hard to prepare for that,” Perez said. “That’s going to be the worst thing, but I’ve got to be ready too. I’m going to go to L.A. for the second opinion. Like Skip said, we’ll see.”

Asked about a report from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman that Tommy John surgery had been recommended, Royals trainer Nick Kenney said at this point there has been “no recommendation” of surgery, but that it has been discussed as an option.

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While surgery serves as the clear worst-case scenario, the best-case for Perez would be sitting out for a period of time before going into some sort of rest and rehabilitation regiment.

“If I can play through it, I will,” Perez said.

General manager Dayton Moore didn’t completely rule out a potential scenario where Perez could play in some capacity that would take him from behind the plate yet still be in the lineup. However, Moore stressed that they’d do “the right thing” for both the player and the organization.

“To play this year? Exactly. Yeah, that’s my hope,” Perez said. “I don’t think nobody wants to miss a year. We’re going to see. We’ll go to L.A.”

Perez, 28, remains under contract through the 2021 season. He’s slated to make $13 million per year in base salary next season and the year after. The team will factor his future into any decision.

“You can’t measure what he means to a team,” Moore said. “It’s not just on the field. It’s in the clubhouse. It’s in the community. His enthusiasm is just so infectious. He represents, in my opinion, a lot of what this game should be about.”

That joy and enthusiasm as well as his natural charisma have made Perez a player fans love to watch play, Moore said. On the field, Moore also pointed to a lot of “wow moments” that Perez creates with his defense from his position behind home plate.

“He’s a Gold Glover and a Silver Slugger and an All-Star,” Moore said. “He’s one of the best overall catching talents that I’ve ever been around, and he’s a joy to watch play baseball. So we’re going to miss him for the 2019 season, potentially. We’ll see, but we have to prepare like that.”

Moore said said the preference would be to go forward with Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria as their top options in camp unless something else falls in their lap. Both Gallagher and Viloria are currently on the 40-man roster. They’ll search for “depth” — Moore specified a third or fourth catcher type — and they’d evaluate internally first.

Young prospects MJ Melendez and Sebastian Rivero, who are in big-league camp as non-roster invitees, would likely not be rushed to the majors, according to Moore. It’s more likely that they’d be evaluated as major-league options in July or August, if necessary.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.