A little more than three weeks ago, Salvador Perez was walking around the indoor batting cages at Werner Park, joking with teammates and media members before a scheduled exhibition game.
The All-Star catcher was in a great mood with Kansas City only a few days away from its opener. One night after the cancellation in Omaha, however, Perez sprained his left knee when he slipped while carrying his luggage up stairs. A partial tear of his MCL forced a delay in the start to his 2018 season.
Originally expected to be on the disabled list for four to six weeks, Perez returned to Werner on Thursday to wrap up his rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues well ahead of schedule. He caught the second game of a doubleheader as reigning PCL champion Memphis swept Omaha, 6-2 and 2-1.
“A couple of more days here until I go to the big leagues, so I feel great,” Perez said before the opener of the doubleheader. “My knee feels better. I had an accident in my house (two days) before opening day. It was terrible for me. But this is part of the life. Now, I’ll start to get ready and go back and support my team.”
The 2015 World Series MVP said he could return to the big leagues as soon as Saturday. He is expected to still be in town Friday, when he will be joined by a Royals teammate in the Omaha lineup.
Former Nebraska star and five-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon, on the disabled list since April 9 for a labral tear in his left hip, is scheduled to start a rehabilitation assignment of his own with the Chasers.
Gordon, who also had rehab stints in Omaha in 2015 and ’16, played seven games before his injury. The three-time All-Star outfielder logged only 23 at-bats, hitting .174, prior to landing on the disabled list.
Perez, meanwhile, hasn’t played for the Royals at all. And Kansas City is off to a rough start without him: The Royals are 3-13 to start the season.
“That’s why I was a little quicker in my recovery,” the catcher said. “I want to try to help my team, to play hard and try to change the situation right now. We’re going to see what happens after I get there.”
Perez began his rehab assignment in Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Sunday. He caught half of a game on his first day, batted only in his second and was behind the plate for seven innings in his third.
On Thursday, the four-time Gold Glove winner was behind the plate for all seven innings of the nightcap, throwing out two of three Redbird runners who attempted to steal second base. Perez hit 1 for 4 with a single and three groundouts. He is in line to be the designated hitter Friday.
“We put in a lot of work together, the trainer and me,” Perez said. “I feel great. (Wednesday) was my third week. They said it was going to take me (four to six). I only have three. I’m healing pretty good.”
Memphis starter Jack Flaherty tossed a two-hitter in Thursday’s opener. Wilfredo Tovar, the No. 9 hitter for the Redbirds, drove in five runs, three on a home run in a four-run second inning.
Ryan O’Hearn drove in both Omaha runs with a double in the fourth. Zach Lovvorn, called up from Double-A to replace the recently promoted Scott Barlow, suffered the loss in his Triple-A debut.
Adolis Garcia’s two-run homer off Andres Machado was all the offense the Redbirds needed to win the nightcap. Reliever John Brebbia fanned Hunter Dozier swinging with Perez on first base to end the game.