SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals six-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez underwent Tommy John surgery on his injured right elbow on Wednesday, the club announced, after noted specialist Neal ElAttrache's second opinion on Tuesday confirmed the original diagnosis of a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament.
ElAttrache performed the surgery on Perez, who will miss the entire 2019 season.
If Perez's rehab goes according to plan, he could be ready for Opening Day 2020.
“Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a release. “We fully expect Salvy to return to our club once healthy and continue to play with the passion and enjoyment that he has played with since joining our organization. His leadership and production on the field will not be easy to replicate, but as a team we will embrace this unforeseen challenge and are excited for the 2019 championship season."
Catchers having Tommy John surgery usually require slightly less than the 14 months the Royals allow for the pitchers to recover from the same procedure.
The Royals' plan without Perez, according to Moore, is to go with Cam Gallagher and rookie Meibrys Viloria at catcher.
Gallagher said he is ready for the challenge.
“I've just got to not put too much pressure on myself,” Gallagher said. “It’s tough to fill in the shoes for Sal, a Gold Glover, a great teammate.
“You never want a teammate going down, but it’s next man up. I put together some good at-bats tonight [in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the D-backs], and I think we’re at a good place as a team.”
Moore has confidence in Gallagher and Viloria as well.
“We’re fortunate to have two young catchers,” Moore said on Saturday. “Cam Gallagher is someone who can really receive. We feel highly confident with his ability to receive and call a game. We like Viloria [as a backup] who can be offensive-oriented but also can really throw. He’s got a lot of fire, lot of toughness. There’s no doubt in our minds that he would do very well in the Major Leagues from a mental standpoint.
“It’s always possible [to sign a veteran]. But we’ll see how camp unfolds. We were pursuing catching depth all offseason. It’s hard to get a third or fourth-type catcher, or a backup catcher for the Kansas City Royals because they see Salvador Perez and know they won’t get the opportunity to establish themselves. That equation has changed but guys already are in other camps.”
One free-agent catcher the Royals reportedly have been in touch with is Martin Maldonado, who beat out Perez for the Gold Glove in 2017.
Royals manager Ned Yost seemed adamant after Tuesday’s game that adding a catcher from outside the organization was definitely still an option.
“Of course [that door] is still open,” Yost said. “It’s always open. It never closes for anybody. You’re always, always, always looking to get better. But we’re happy with what we’ve got. If we didn’t do anything, I’d be more than happy. I’m fine with Viloria and with Cam.”
Replacing Perez will be difficult, but Gallagher’s teammates have faith in him.
“Obviously, it’s a big loss,” Whit Merrifield said. “But it’s a big opportunity for Cam. It’s a chance for Cam to show what he can do. We’ll cheer for him, and I’m anxious to see what he can do.”
Added Alex Gordon, “There’s going to have to be a lot of guys who have to step up. It won’t just be one guy. You just can’t replace a guy like Sal. But Cam is capable of filling in for him, and we’re excited to see what he can do.”
Perez suffered a flexor strain in his right forearm during his offseason throwing program in January and was shut down until arriving in camp in early February.
Perez seemed fine until last Wednesday, when he complained of soreness after some extensive throwing. He had an MRI exam on Thursday that revealed the partial tear of the UCL.