Yesterday, Salvador Perez felt a tweak in his knee while warming up Jonathan Sanchez in the bullpen before the Royals spring matchup against the Reds. After catching one inning, Perez left the game in visible pain and limping.
The Royals sent him in for an MRI and then back to Kansas City for further testing to determine the extent of any damage and the news is not good. Perez has a tear in his left meniscus and surgery to repair it will have him out for a while. This follows news from nearly three weeks ago when Manuel Pina underwent surgery to repair a similar tear. Pina was expected to be out 6-8 weeks, but after missing all of spring training, he won’t likely start his season in the big leagues.
That leaves Brayan Pena as the only healthy catcher on the Royals 40 man roster, though Max Ramirez has been hitting the ball hard in every game he’s been in and could back up. Cody Clark has seen a lot of time as well in spring action. Ivan Rodriguez is still available and has been reported to want playing time, though, as long as there aren’t complications or further damage to Perez or Pina, he won’t get it for long. He’s well past his prime and had only a .604 OPS for Washington last year in 44 games, but he still threw out 13 of 25 would-be basestealers. Other options could become available once teams start placing players on waivers at the end of camp. Ramon Castro is another option available on the market.
Perez is weeks removed from signing a new contract that, after team options, would have him in Kansas City through 2019.
His missing time is a blow to an organization trying to establish its core of young players this year with an eye towards an extended period of contention. Perez is a big part of that core with defensive skills and a great arm that make him a force behind the plate and strength and bat control that could make him a solid contributor with the bat (especially for a catcher). He’s also a leader and has been noted as a favorite target of many pitchers in the Royals system since coming up through the system. Provided that there are no other issues when surgery is performed, a reasonable expectation for his return is 6-8 weeks, according to Will Carroll.
If anything, there were some rumors that Perez may have torn an ACL, but those turned out to be nothing. A ligament tear would have been a far more devastating injury. In other sports, players have come back within just a couple of weeks from meniscus injuries.
He’ll lose out on time building more rapport with the Royals pitching staff. Once recovered, he should be fine, but he’ll always have the specter of other complications or injuries to the knee lurking. He’s not a small player by any means and spending most of his days crouching won’t help a once-repaired knee. He’ll have to work hard to maintain his conditioning and strengthen the joint to get back to speed.
The highest ranked catching prospect in the Royals system is Cameron Gallagher, a 2011 second round pick out of high school. He’s still far away from the big leagues, so the Royals are limited in high-ceiling options behind Perez.