Perez excited to be back playing with Royals

Perez excited to be back playing with Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Salvador Perez's return to the Royals came with a bang.

The catcher made his season debut on Friday after being sidelined since March following knee surgery, and it didn't take him long to become reacquainted with the Majors, as he smashed a two-run home run in the fourth inning of the Royals' 11-4 loss to the Cardinals.

To make room on the active roster for the reinstated Perez, the Royals optioned left-hander Tommy Hottovy to Triple-A Omaha. To clear space on the 40-man roster, outfielder Lorenzo Cain was placed on the 60-day disabled list, but because he's already been out that long, Cain can be activated at any time.

The home run was one of two hits on the night for Perez, who got the start at catcher and batted seventh in his first game off the DL. In the bottom of the fourth, Perez deposited a 3-1 pitch from St. Louis starter Joe Kelly in the Royals' bullpen.

"Unbelievable," Perez said. "I just tried to hit the ball hard. The pitcher was behind in the count. He had to come into the middle of the plate."

After the game, Perez said his knee felt great, but it was playing again with his teammates that really had his spirits high.

"I feel great to be back with my brothers," Perez said. "I feel like it's a family in the clubhouse, all my friends here, and I feel great for that."

Before returning to Kansas City, Perez wrapped up a 12-game rehab assignment with Omaha. With the Storm Chasers, Perez hit .340 (17-for-50) with two doubles and seven RBIs. In his last game, Perez went 4-for-4 at Memphis, scored three runs and caught nine innings.

Perez underwent surgery in Los Angeles on March 16, just a few days after suffering a torn meniscus while warming up pitcher Jonathan Sanchez before a Cactus League game at Surprise, Ariz.

"He's a guy that we are kind of hinging a bit of our future on," manager Ned Yost said of Perez. "He's a very intelligent young man. He plays with a lot of energy, a lot of life, really good behind the plate and can swing the bat. I think more than anything else we like his energy. ... I'm glad he's back. It's time for him to start playing up here again. He's ready. He's healthy. He's ready to go. We're glad to have him."

Perez certainly could provide a boost to the lineup. He batted a surprising .331 with three home runs and 21 RBIs in his 39 games with the Royals in 2011.

"We're going to catch him about three, four days a week and ease him into it," Yost said. "He'll probably play four days a week until the All-Star break, and then we're going to start mixing him in a little more from that point."

The Royals, well aware that top-drawer catchers are hard to find, in February signed Perez to a guaranteed five-year contract through 2016 for $7 million, with club options for 2017-19. The deal could be worth a total of $26.75 million for the full eight years if all of the options are exercised and all the incentives written into the deal are achieved.

Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Reporter Dick Kaegel contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.