SURPRISE, Ariz. — Salvador Perez will open the season on the disabled list instead of as the Kansas City Royals' starting catcher.
Perez will have surgery on his left knee to repair a lateral meniscus tear. He injured his knee warming up starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez in the bullpen before a 7-5 victory Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds. Perez caught the first inning but left with a noticeable limp and was replaced by Cody Clark. An MRI on Tuesday night revealed the tear.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Wednesday that in a best-case scenario, Perez would be out three to four weeks and not be ready for the April 6 opener against the Los Angeles Angels. The surgery will determine the severity of the cartilage tear and how much time he will miss.
"I'm very sad," Perez said with Brayan Pena acting as his interpreter. "It's my first year, and I was very motivated, and it's very painful. But hopefully I can bounce back, and I'll be fine."
He said that while catching Sanchez in the bullpen, he felt something in his knee.
"But I didn't expect that it was something very dangerous," he said. "Right now they told me that it was way more than I thought it was. It was a pitch inside, so I was trying to move in, and that's when my knee tweaked. My spike got stuck, and ... my knee moved out of place. I've learned how to play with a lot of pain. I went out there, and I caught the first inning.
"Then Nick (Kenney), the trainer, told me that I was limping. He didn't like the way I looked, so he checked me. It really was painful after that. After he shut me down, that's when I found out it was something serious."
Perez's injury leaves the Royals thin in catching. Manny Pina, a rookie backup who made his big league debut last year, had surgery on his right knee after tearing cartilage in a Feb. 22 practice.
Pena is the lone remaining healthy catcher on the 40-man big league roster, hitting .248 in 72 games last year. Non-roster invitee Max Ramirez is the only other catcher in camp with big league experience. He hit .217 in 45 games in 2008 and 2010 with the Texas Rangers.
The 21-year-old Perez hit .331 in 39 games with the Royals last season after a promotion Aug. 10. He signed a five-year, $7 million contract Feb. 27 with a club option for three more years that could be worth $26.75 million if all the performance bonuses are reached.
Clark, 30, is another candidate, playing nine years in the minors and the past two seasons with Triple-A Omaha, hitting .233 in 51 games.
Moore said the Royals would be looking to add catching depth with the knee surgeries to Perez and Pina.