TORONTO — It’s time, manager Ned Yost believes, to push the Royals a little closer to their future lineup. That means, for starters, shortstop Alcides Escobar is in line for a long look as the No. 2 hitter, and first baseman Eric Hosmer returns to the No. 3 spot.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“Escobar has a real nice chance of fitting into the two spot,” Yost said Monday before the start of a four-game series against Toronto at Rogers Centre. “Hos is going to be a three hitter.
“Billy (Butler) is going to be a four or five hitter. He’s going to be a run-producer. And Moose (Mike Moustakas) should be a five or six.”
Alex Gordon is again firmly established as the leadoff hitter after shuffling through various lineup spots earlier in the year. He entered Monday with a .339 average and a .429 on-base percentage in 32 games since returning to the top of the lineup.
“Not only does he hit,” Yost said, “he gets on base. He’s been, traditionally, our best on-base guy — and that’s what you want from your leadoff guy.”
Escobar batted second in Sunday’s 10-8 loss at Minnesota and carried a club-best .310 average into Monday’s game against the Blue Jays.
“He can hit the ball the other way,” Yost said. “He’s our best situational hitter. He’s our best bunter. He has speed. He’s taking more walks. He’s doing all of the things you want a No. 2 hitter to do. It’s time that we start trying to develop him as a No. 2 hitter.”
Escobar welcomes the move after starting 37 games this seasonas the No. 9 hitter and 64 games in the lineup’s bottom third.
“Batting second is a little different,” he said, “but I like it. I’ll get more at-bats, and I’ll see more pitches. But I’ll be expected to move the runner sometimes for Billy, Hosmer or Moustakas. I feel comfortable batting second.”
Hosmer returned to the No. 3 slot for the first time since June 19. The move comes after an 11-for-26 surge over the last seven games boosted his average to .233 — its highest point since the third game of the season.
Royals closer Jonathan Broxton isn’t doing much campaigning as a candidate in the Final Vote competition to determine the final spot on the American League All-Star team.
But his teammates are making a big push, especially in twitter pleas, and Yost is serving as the de facto campaign chairman — much as he did last year when Gordon was a Final Vote candidate.
“We’ve got two problems here,” Yost said, “and both problems, I think, can be overcome. But they have to be overcome by our fans. One is you’ve got (Texas pitcher) Yu Darvish, who is from Japan. So you’ve got a country voting for one guy.
“Also, it’s a disadvantage not to be at home at this time. We can overcome that, but it’s going to take Kansas City fans, from all over the country, taking the time to vote.
“Even if our fans can just take 20 minutes a day voting for Jonathan Broxton, I think we can overcome those obstacles.”
The other AL candidates are Darvish, Los Angeles reliever Ernesto Frieri, Baltimore starter Jason Hammel and Chicago starter Jake Peavy. Want to vote? Here’s the link: www.allstargame.com.
Outfielder Bubba Starling, the Royals’ first-round pick in 2011, hit his first two professional home runs Monday in short-season Burlington’s 13-5 victory at Danville. He also had an RBI single in six at-bats, raising his average to .294.
That guy might be worth the wait.
Gordon benefited from a scoring change in a June 26 game against Tampa Bay. A sharp grounder in the third inning that had been scored as an error on Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez was changed by Major League Baseball, acting on an appeal, to an RBI single.
That boosted Gordon’s average from .273 to .276, and he bumped it to .278 by going two for five in Monday’s victory over the Blue Jays.
Pitching coach Dave Eiland rejoined the club just before it took the field for batting practice after missing two games because of his mother’s illness. He departed between games of Saturday’s day/night doubleheader at Minnesota.
Eiland’s mother, June, died Sunday.
Bullpen coach Steve Foster shifted to the bench in Eiland’s absence. Bullpen catcher Bill Duplissea oversaw the bullpen.
The Royals announced their player- and pitcher-of-the-month awards for their eight minor-league affiliates. (Seasonlong stats for all levels in parenthesis):
Class AAA Omaha: Outfielder Wil Myers (27 homers, 71 RBIs, .329 in 79 games) and left-hander Doug Davis (4-1, 2.51 in eight games, including four starts).
Class AA Northwest Arkansas: Infielder Rey Navarro (.255 in 72 games) and right-hander Michael Mariot (3-2 and 3.83 in 20 games, including five starts).
Class A Wilmington: Outfielder Whit Merrifield (21 extra-base hits, 18 steals and .270 in 72 games) and right-hander Yordano Ventura (3-5 and 2.81 in 15 starts).
Class A Kane County: Infielder Daniel Mateo (25 extra-base hits, .304 in 75 games) and right-hander Robinson Yambati (2-1 and 3.63 in 12 games, including four starts).
Short-season Idaho Falls: Outfielder Ethan Chapman (.415 in 12 games) and right-hander Andrew Ferguson (2-1 and 1.73 in five starts).
Short-season Burlington: third baseman Patrick Leonard (six homers, .229 in 12 games) and right-hander Daniel Hernandez (0.90 ERA in two starts).
Rookie Surprise: Infielder Diego Goris (.417 in eight games) and left-hander Matt Tenuta (1-0 with six scoreless innings in two relief appearances).
Dominican Summer League: Infielder Wander Franco (.292 average and .381 on-base percentage in 25 games) and right-hander Miguel Almonte (2-1, 1.30 in six starts).
That’s a winner
Marcia Bartholomew of Parsons, Kan., won the top prize of $77,000 while playing the “Red Hot and Wild 7s” while playing a $5 Missouri Lottery Scratchers ticket on June 23 at Kauffman Stadium.
Class AAA Omaha left-hander Will Smith was picked as the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week after winning two starts while allowing one unearned run in 132/3 innings.
Smith, 22, is 3-4 overall with a 3.81 ERA in 13 starts for the Storm Chasers.
He also made his big-league debut earlier this year by going 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts for the Royals.
Mike Moustakas’ grand slam was the first by a Royal since Melky Cabrera on July
29, 2011 at Cleveland in the fourth inning against Carlos Carrasco. It was the 109th
grand slam in franchise history.
• Salvy Perez has at least one hit in all eight games since returning from the disabled list. His three homers are one more than Brayan Peña and since-departed Humberto Quintero combined to hit in Perez’s absence.
• Moustakas’ five RBIs were a career high.
• Blue Jays reliever David Pauley, who surrendered Moustakas’ slam, was designated for assignment after the game.
Toronto selected the contract of right-
hander Drew Carpenter from their Class AAA Las Vegas affiliate.
• The Royals beat the Blue Jays for the first time this season in five games. Toronto
swept a four-game series from April 20-23 at Kauffman Stadium. Those were
losses eight through 11 in a 12-game skid.
It was 25 years ago Tuesday today — July 3, 1987 — that the Royals held Dick Howser Day at then-Royals Stadium to induct him into their Hall of Fame while also retiring his No. 10 between games of a doubleheader against Toronto.
The ceremony occurred 16 days after Howser, at age 51, died from complications resulting from brain cancer. He was the club’s manager from Aug. 31, 1982 through the 1986 season, although he took a leave of absence following the All-Star break in 1986.
The Royals swept the Blue Jays in the doubleheader — 6-4 and 5-4.