Salvador Perez has damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow, confirmed by a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache today. Perez will need Tommy John surgery, which will take place on Wednesday, according to MLB.com reporter Jeffrey Flanagan. The recovery time from Tommy John surgery can take 12-16 months. Royals trainer Nick Kenney indicated that the rehab time could be shorter for a catcher, which means Salvy could return in time for the start of the 2020 season.
“If you’re looking at a position player who has similarities to a pitcher, you can’t get any closer than a catcher, who actually has a higher volume of throws. But, of course, the intensity of those throws isn’t like a pitcher. There is a chance that the timeline [of recovery] can be shortened a little but you’re still going to take care of the player.”
Salvy injured his elbow last week while making throws in camp.
“I threw from about 75 feet on Wednesday, and I felt something,” Perez said. “I finished my throwing that day and I always wait to see if the pain gets better or worse or stays the same for the next day. If it stays the same I don’t say anything or get checked. But the next morning I [really] felt the pain so that’s when I talked to Nick.”
An MRI later revealed damage to the UCL.
Salvador Perez hit .235/.274/.439 with 27 home runs in 129 games last year, missing the first four weeks with a knee injury after he slipped while carrying his luggage. Perez has played in 125 games or more in every season since 2012, and is a six-time All-Star. The 28-year old is in the third year of a five-year, $52.5 million deal that will pay him $11.2 million this year.
Cam Gallagher will likely see more playing time as a result of the injury. The Royals have said they will consider Meibrys Viloria to split time with Gallagher, although that would mean a big jump up from High-A ball for the 22 year-old Viloria. Catcher Martin Maldonado, who won the 2017 Gold Glove Award, is available as a free agent, as is Evan Gattis, who hit 25 home runs last year.
The track record for catchers after they return from Tommy John surgery is not good. Fangraphs writer Jay Jaffe found that catchers generally decline in performance following the procedure, writing “while I don’t think we can draw strong conclusions from the group of catchers who have preceded Perez in TJS, their history doesn’t offer him and the Royals a particularly great roadmap for success.”
The Royals can move Perez to the 60-day disabled list to make room for an additional player, if necessary.