Royals' Perez undergoes successful TJ surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez underwent successful Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow Wednesday, keeping the six-time All-Star off the field for the entire 2019 season.

The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers' team physician. The recovery time is usually about a year, meaning Perez could be back for Opening Day next season.

Perez posted photos from the hospital on social media Wednesday night.

Perez hurt his elbow during drills on Feb. 27. He underwent an MRI exam that revealed the tear. Perez then headed to Los Angeles for a second opinion Tuesday that confirmed the extent of the injury.

"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," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. "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."

Perez has been among the game's most durable catchers, appearing in at least 129 games each of the past six seasons. He hit a career-low .235 last season, but he still hit 27 homers and had 80 RBIs for a club that was only beginning a massive rebuilding effort.

His leadership as a former World Series MVP was expected to be crucial this season, and manager Ned Yost said Wednesday that Perez can still provide that.

"We had people come in last night and they want to play the 'woe's me.' Yeah, we don't like it,'' Yost said, "but we don't play the woe's me. We move on. Salvy is going to be with us all year long. He is going to be there doing his rehab -- the rehab is a difficult process.

"If somebody were to tell me we were going to lose Salvy and we can't see him all year long,'' Yost added, "that would be a little woe's me. But he's going to be there to support his teammates.''

Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are expected to replace Perez this season, and both offer unique skill sets. Gallagher is such a highly regarded pitch-framer that other clubs inquired about trading for him this past offseason, while Viloria is raw and inexperienced but talented at the plate.

The Royals are also trying first baseman Frank Schwindel behind the plate, largely because his bat has proven to be so dynamic in the minor leagues. Schwindel played catcher in college at St. John's and early in his minor league career, but he has been stuck behind other prospects at first base.

If he can settle behind the plate again, he might have found his path to the big leagues.

"I mean, I've watched him. He's caught before,'' said Yost, a former big league catcher. "That's why when this happened, 'Let's take a look at Schwindel.' He receives the ball fine. If he didn't have the bat, I don't think we'd be thinking about it.''

Schwindel hit .286 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs at Triple-A Omaha last season.

Martin Maldonado is the only other veteran catcher that has yet to sign with a club this spring, but he might not be a substantial upgrade over who is already on the roster.

Moore acknowledged the Royals tried to acquire a veteran backup for Perez earlier in the offseason and came up empty.

"We'll see how camp unfolds," Moore said. "It's hard to get a third-, fourth-type catcher or veteran major league backup to join Kansas City. Nobody wants to do that. They see Salvador and say, 'Well, I'll never get a chance to re-establish myself."

Perez's biggest value now will come as a cheerleader.

"It's definitely not ideal losing a captain, losing our best player. It's going to hurt any team," Gallagher said. "We have to come together as a group and fill those shoes a little bit."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.