SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals catcher Salvador Perez is not worried about getting behind the plate during Spring Training. He knows how many Cactus League games he needs to catch before he’s ready for Opening Day next month.
“None,” said Perez, who has not caught a game since Sept. 26, 2018, at Cincinnati. “I’m ready for the season right now.”
The confident Perez will make his highly anticipated Cactus League debut behind the plate Friday against the Giants at Surprise Stadium. He missed the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his injured right elbow last March.
“To me, if he could have been ready by the last week [of Spring Training], we would have been fine,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He came into Spring Training significantly ahead of every catcher here as far as throwing because of the progression of where he was in his throwing program.”
Perez was originally scheduled to catch Thursday against the Brewers, but the club decided to give him one more day to let the swelling from a recent dental procedure subside. Instead, he was in the lineup at designated hitter, his third appearance at DH this spring. Perez has also played one game at first base this spring.
While it’s impossible to predict so early in spring, the Royals expect Perez to have a normal workload behind the plate in 2020. He caught a career-high 146 games in 2014 and most recently caught 115 games in 2017. He’s averaged close to 110 games at catcher per season in his career.
Perez has also made 57 starts at designated hitter in his career with three appearances at first base -- all in 2018 -- in his career.
“We are talking about how to keep his bat in the mix. Some days give his legs a break so he can [cut] down the risk of anything that might end up affecting him,” Matheny said. “But as long as his body is responding well and he’s working like he is and he feels good, [he'll be in the lineup]. On the days we need to give him a break, we will probably want him in that lineup if he’s swinging it well. There are days he’s just going to need to be shut down, but for the most part, if he feels good, he will play.”
Ultimately, the team’s goal is to keep Perez on the field as much as possible. They’ll monitor the workload on his arm and how his body is responding to the grind of the season. In that way, it’s a similar approach clubs across the league have with their own catchers.
The only difference in Kansas City is that Perez could have a few more scheduled days off behind the plate in 2020.
“He will fight it,” Matheny said. “I know for that position, if you are preparing to just go, you will be ready, and you go as many as you can. It just comes down to earning his trust and knowing that we are trying to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for him.”