KANSAS CITY -- Catcher Salvador Perez might be back in the Royals' lineup about two weeks earlier than expected.
Perez, who had knee surgery in Spring Training, originally was projected to be out until about the break for the July 10 All-Star Game in Kansas City. Now it appears he could return by late June.
Perez took batting practice on the field for the first time on Friday after a period of swinging in the indoor cages. He's also been catching side sessions with pitchers in the bullpen.
"He's two weeks ahead of schedule," manager Ned Yost said.
That's good news for the Royals, who were counting heavily on the 22-year-old catcher, who broke in impressively last year after joining the club on Aug. 10. In late February, they signed him to a five-year contract through 2016 for a guaranteed $7 million with three club option years after that. Then he suffered a left knee injury on March 12 and underwent surgery on March 16.
Perez is likely to leave for the Royals' camp at Surprise, Ariz., next week, possibly as soon as Monday.
"He's going to go to Arizona and get in a Spring Training mode and be there two weeks or so. Then move to a Double-A or Triple-A team," Yost said.
He and fellow catcher Manny Pina, who had right knee surgery in Spring Training, are roughly on the same schedule, so they'll be placed on different teams for their Minor League injury rehabilitation assignments.
Infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, on the disabled list with a right ankle sprain, is to accompany the Royals to New York and then leave for Arizona to continue his rehab. He's scheduled to join Double-A Northwest Arkansas for a week, then go to Triple-A Omaha.