Royals activate Salvador Perez from IL after thumb surgery

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NEW YORK — The Kansas City Royals activated All-Star catcher Salvador Perez from the injured list and put him in the starting lineup against the New York Yankees.

The reigning major league home run leader was set to bat third as the designated hitter barely a month after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.

“He’s the heart and soul of our club,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re really fortunate to have him back.”

Kansas City initially estimated the 32-year-old Perez would need eight weeks to recover after surgery June 24, but doctors assured the club he was ready for big league action.

“At that point, I think we take whatever we think our preconcieved idea was of how long it should take and throw it out the window,” Matheny said.

Perez, a seven-time All-Star, played three minor league rehab games with Triple-A Omaha and went 4 for 8. He caught one game and was the DH in two others. He warmed up prior to Friday night’s game with a first baseman’s mitt, although the five-time Gold Glove winner hasn’t played the position since 2020.

Perez led the majors with 48 homers in 2021 but was slumping this year prior to the surgery. He’s hitting .211 with 11 home runs, 34 RBIs and a career-low .680 OPS in 57 games. He’s in the first year of a team-record $82 million, four-year contract.

The clubhouse leader returns to a club that could look quite different in a few days. The Royals entered Friday 39-60 and in last place in the AL Central after trading outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees on Wednesday. They could unload more players before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Rookie shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. was held out of the lineup for a fifth straight game with right hamstring soreness, but Matheny is optimistic he’ll play before the end of the weekend. Witt ramped up his pregame work Friday, including a lengthy batting practice.

The 22-year-old Witt is batting .258 with 14 homers, 51 RBIs and a .760 OPS.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.