Much as you need to know what the deal is right now, it was, alas, too soon Saturday to understand the full implications of the strained intercostal muscle Royals catcher Sal Perez suffered Friday night.
But barring what Royals manager Ned Yost called “a pretty miraculous recovery,” Perez figures to go on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday. A worst-case scenario would have him out a month.
So the resilient Perez isn’t actually made of Teflon or steel but flesh and blood.
Despite what you might think after he has stayed off the disabled list since 2013 — through countless foul tips off virtually every part of his body, including many to his head, a frightening collision with Cheslor Cuthbert last season and the alarming crash with Drew Butera during the World Baseball Classic.
“I’ve realized that he’s a human being, not a robot. He’s not a machine,” Yost said after the Royals game against Seattle was rained out Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. “And as durable and tough as he is, this stuff happens. He can take a tremendous beating and still show up to play every day.
“But it’s just one of those things.”
One of those things that sends a shudder through Royals fans.
Especially as the team enters the nitty-gritty of the season with designs on a playoff run just off the pace in the American League Central (three games behind Cleveland heading into Sunday’s games) and a half game ahead of Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot.
A strong case could be made that Perez is the most indispensable Royal, considering the combination of the crucial role he plays with pitchers and the bat that has produced 21 home runs and 65 RBIs this season.
Yost began to agree with that notion … only to think it through further as he cataloged the rest of an essential nucleus he listed who all just happen to be potential free agents at the end of the season: Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
“All of our core guys,” he said, “are really pretty indispensable.”
What that point means in terms of next year is its own little looming dilemma and drama.
But in the context of this season, the point was both that the Royals can ill-afford to lose any of their key players for an extended time but that he also believes “we can cover it.”
The prospect of covering it doesn’t mean just in the sense of how Drew Butera (.250, two home runs and nine RBIs in 92 at-bats) can stand in Perez’s stead at the plate and behind it.
It also means others picking up the slack, something this core has demonstrated a knack for over the last few years when the odds are laughing at them.
It doesn’t always work that way, of course —- or they would have found a way to overcome the Moustakas-Alex Gordon pileup that started the sabotage of last season, followed by a Cain hamstring injury that kept him out for a month in which the Royals went 9-16.
That’s a lot of missing pieces, though.
So maybe a more apt comparison would be to what the Royals faced in 2014, when soon after standing pat at the trade deadline they discovered Hosmer had a broken hand.
To skeptics, that looked like curtains for a Royals team that hadn’t been to the postseason since 1985. Hosmer didn’t return for a month.
But the Royals went 18-10 while he was out, hoisting themselves from four games behind in the division into first place before drifting into the wild-card berth.
They did that with considerable contributions not only from Hosmer’s replacement at first, Billy Butler, but all over the roster.
For instance, there was that night in Oakland when the only run of the game came on a home run by Raul Ibanez, who had five RBIs for the Royals that season.
You could say that victory proved to be the difference between playing the Athletics at home or on the road in the mystical wild-card game that led to the rebirth of the franchise.
The Royals, of course, don’t want to face the worst-case scenario here.
And there’s no telling how they’ll navigate it if they do — even if that team had the exact same record (56-52) when Hosmer went on the disabled list that the Royals have now.
Moreover, there’s a difference between what’s possible and what’s probable.
But the DNA and recent history of this team also tells you there’s no reason to assume disaster ahead.