The ironic thing about Salvador Perez being knocked out of the Kansas City Royals’ summer training for testing positive for COVID-19 is that manager Mike Matheny thought he was in the best shape of his career.
The Royals announced that the six-time all-star catcher had tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday but was asymptomatic. Perez will not return to the second stint of spring training until he has tested negative twice in a row, according to Major League Baseball’s protocols for the virus.
Matheny said Perez was eager to hit the field in Surprise, Arizona, during the first part of spring training before it was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We watched a guy in spring training as excited about the game of baseball as anyone I’ve ever seen," Matheny said on a video conference call with the media. "This guy was so ready to go, and it’s just a shame because you can tell by just looking at him that he’s in fantastic shape.
"I think he’s in better physical shape now than he was in spring training, and I didn’t think that was possible. He looks really good and his spirits are high."
Perez said he is following the guidelines from the Royals and the league to keep himself isolated until he has recovered.
"Seriously I don’t feel a thing," Perez told the media on a video conference. "I don’t know where I got this. … I’m here at my house. Hopefully everything passes super fast and I can be back with the guys on the field."
Perez had been training in Miami, and Florida has set several records for positive coronavirus cases in the last week.
Perez said that assistant coach Pedro Grifol and the trainers have sent him workouts to do at his house while he waits for negative tests. The next test will likely be 5-7 days following his positive test.
"(They) gave me things to do at my house. I have a tee. I do some (hitting off a) tee. I throw. I’m keeping my body active and just waiting till I am negative a couple times."
Matheny said he can sense that Perez is eager to return to Kauffman Stadium to restart his training for the abbreviated 60-game season scheduled to start July 23-24 (schedules will be announced Monday evening).
"I just think it’s more just how much he misses not being with us right now," the Royals’ new manager said. "We’re trying to work through a number of different ways he can continue to get the work in he needs."
Matheny said the most important thing is that Perez continues to work on his surgically repaired elbow on his throwing arm. Perez underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament in March 2019 after injuring it in spring training.
"He’s just being careful, first for his own health," Matheny said. "Secondly, being able to stay on top of his throwing is going to be very key."
Matheny said his hitting and duties as a catcher appear to be in good shape.
"So this is just going to be a pause and we’ll get him back in as soon as we’re given the medical clearance," Matheny said.
Matheny said that he had the coronavirus as well, so he has empathy for anyone who contracts it. His priority is not spreading it to others on his team.
"This thing is for real," he said. "We’ve got to be on top of our game to do what we can to protect each other."
Perez, the 30-year-old 2015 World Series MVP, said he will do what he can to get ready for the season as he stays at home while the virus passes.
"I keep my body in shape, but I can’t control what I can’t control," Perez said. "I just have to think positive and hopefully it can pass super fast, super quick, and I can be back to what I like to do – play baseball."