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Emotional, 'Opening Day'-type return for Salvy

@FlannyMLB
February 28, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Finally, after almost a year and a half, Royals catcher Salvador Perez was back behind the plate in a game. Perez, who missed all of 2019 because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, made his first start at catcher since late September of '18 in

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Finally, after almost a year and a half, Royals catcher Salvador Perez was back behind the plate in a game.

Perez, who missed all of 2019 because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, made his first start at catcher since late September of '18 in the Royals’ 3-1 loss to the Giants on Friday at Surprise Stadium.

“Excited to be back behind home plate,” Perez said. “It was emotional. ... It was kind of like Opening Day -- once you catch the first pitch, it’s a regular game. But it was great. I blocked some balls, threw to second base between innings. It was all great.”

Now that his first start at catcher is out of the way, Perez said he can continue working on getting to know his pitching staff again, along with some newcomers, such as left-hander Mike Montgomery, the projected No. 4 starter who pitched one scoreless inning Friday.

“I was doing that during practice, getting to know the guys,” Perez said. “You ask them, ‘How do you want me to move behind the plate? Where to set up?’”

Montgomery and Perez also have a history: Perez caught Montgomery in the Royals’ Minor League system almost 10 years ago.

“Been a few years since I’ve thrown to him, but it was like we just didn’t miss a beat,” Montgomery said. “I know everyone is excited to have him back. I know what he means to the organization.”

Butterflies for Montgomery
Montgomery admitted there were some nerves before his first outing of the spring.

“I told [Alex Gordon] before the game, ‘I’m actually kind of nervous,’” Montgomery said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I still get nervous before the first game.’

"I thought I threw the ball well. It’s a good place to start. You just keep building from there. Just good being back to the competitive mode.”

Kennedy’s first spring outing
Closer Ian Kennedy finally got on the mound in a game and gave up three hits and two runs, including an opposite-field home run .

“Just a fastball that was up, but I wanted it up,” Kennedy said. “I wanted it probably a little more inside.

“First one is out of the way. Just trying to work on my location. Fastball was a little up. Cutter wasn’t very good -- I threw two that were awful. Just keep working and building up.”

Rosenthal impressive
Trying to win a bullpen spot, right-hander Trevor Rosenthal threw a 1-2-3 third inning with two strikeouts. His fastball, good all spring, sat at 98-99.

“Right now just trying to get ahead in counts,” Rosenthal said. “I was able to get ahead in counts today. And it was fun having Salvy back. Super happy with the results so far.”

Up next
Right-hander Stephen Woods Jr., a Rule 5 Draft pick, will get the start on Saturday against the Mariners at Peoria Stadium at 2:10 p.m. CT. Also expected to pitch for the Royals are right-handers Braden Shipley, Scott Barlow, Heath Fillmyer, Carlos Hernandez and Greg Holland, as well as left-hander Tim Hill.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.