Center fielder Lorenzo Cain is poised, finally, to return to the lineup Friday night after a 79-game absence when the Royals open a three-game weekend series against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“It has been a long time,” he agreed. “It has, it has. A long time.”
Ninety-four days long.
Cain suffered a strained left groin after slamming into the center-field wall on April 10 in Oakland while running down Daric Barton’s long fly ball. The catch turned into a double play when Collin Cowgill couldn’t get back to first.
But Cain came up limping and exited an inning later.
“I didn’t think twice when that happened,” he said. “I thought I was going to be ready to go (three days later in the home opener). It ended up being worse than I thought.”
Cain appeared close to returning in late April before suffering a far more serious injury, a torn left hip flexor, while on a rehab assignment at Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
“I completely tore (the muscle) off the bone,” he said. “What can you do? Keep plugging away.”
The hip injury knocked him out until June 18, when Cain returned to Northwest Arkansas to begin another rehab assignment. He spent the final part of this 20-day tour, the maximum allowed, at Class AAA Omaha.
Now, finally, he’s back with the Royals and, manager Ned Yost confirmed, will be in the starting lineup Friday night.
“I’m ready to go,” Cain said. “Ready, ready, ready. Finally ready.”
Second baseman Chris Getz is also back from the disabled list after missing 20 games because of a strained muscle in his lower left leg. He returns after playing six rehab games at Omaha. “I’m running well,” he said. “I’ve got confidence in it.”
Myers on hold
Cain’s return means outfielder Wil Myers, the organization’s top prospect, is likely to remain a while longer at Class AAA Omaha.
“We need to see Lorenzo Cain,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “We made a deal (trading Melky Cabrera to San Francisco) where a lot of it was predicated on Lorenzo Cain being able play center field for us.
“He had a terrific year (last season) in Triple-A. He likely would have been the Milwaukee Brewers’ opening-day center fielder in 2011. We need to see him play, and we need to see him play now.”
So Myers remains at Omaha after being picked Wednesday as the Star of Stars at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Buffalo, N.Y. He went two for three with a run scored and an RBI in the Pacific Coast League’s 3-0 victory over the International League.
That came three days after he went two for four with three RBIs in the All-Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Myers, 21, is batting .327 this season in 83 games at Omaha and Northwest Arkansas with 27 homers and 72 RBIs.
“You can make the argument that Wil Myers improves your team right now,” Moore conceded. “OK, I can listen to that. But Lorenzo Cain is coming back. Let’s watch him for a few weeks and see where he is and how he’s responding.
“We’ll get a better feel for who we are with him in there.”
Yost confirmed he plans no changes to his rotation coming out of the break.
Left-hander Bruce Chen (7-8, 5.22 ERA) and righties Luke Hochevar (6-8, 5.14) and Luis Mendoza (3-5, 4.50) are in line to start against the White Sox before lefties Jonathan Sánchez (1-5, 6.75) and Everett Teaford (1-2, 5.60) open against Seattle.
Chicago is planning to start lefty Jose Quintana (4-1, 2.04), right-hander Jake Peavy (7-5, 2.85) and left-hander Chris Sale (10-2, 2.19) in the three games.
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur is the Royals’ nominee for the 2012 Heart and Hustle Award, which is determined by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
The award seeks to honor “active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game.” The overall winner will be announced Nov. 13 in New York.
Previous winners: Astros infielder Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore (2008), Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (2009), Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay (2010), and Angels outfielder Torii Hunter (2011).
The Royals open their post-break schedule as a 150-1 shot to win the World Series in odds posted by Bovada, an online sports betting service.
Sound bad? There are six teams with longer odds: Colorado and Minnesota at 300-1; and the Chicago Cubs, Houston, San Diego and Seattle at 500-1. The New York Yankees are the favorite at 9-2, followed by Texas at 5-1.
The Royals are an 80-1 shot to win the American League pennant.
Three prospects were cited as the pitcher of the week in their respective leagues for the period of July 2-8:
Kane County right-hander Angel Baez, 21, in the Class A Midwest League. He went 2-0 with allowing one run in 12 innings over two starts. He is 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA overall in eight games. Baez signed in 2008 as a Dominican free agent.
Idaho Falls left-hander Clayton Schulz, 22, in the short-season Pioneer League. He gave up one run in six innings while winning his only start. He is 1-3 with an 8.44 ERA overall in five games. Schulz signed last August as a non-drafted free agent.
Burlington left-hander Colin Rodgers, 18, in the short-season Appalachian League. He pitched six hitless innings while winning his only start. Rodgers was the Royals’ third-round pick in June.
The Royals extended their player-development contract with Class A Wilmington (Del.) through 2014. The franchise is about 30 miles south of Philadelphia and plays in the Carolina League.
“We have been partners with the Blue Rocks for all but two years of their existence and take great pride in this,” said Scott Sharp, the Royals’ director of minor-league operations.
“The ownership group, management team and the community are great supporters of the Kansas City Royals and our minor league players. The facility and city are second to none in minor-league baseball.”
Wilmington has been the Royals’ Hi-A affiliate since its formation in 1993 except for 2005-06, when it was part of the Boston system. The Royals’ Hi-A affiliate in those years was High Desert in the California League.
Current Royals who came through Wilmington on their way through the system: Louis Coleman, Aaron Crow, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Gordon, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvy Perez and Everett Teaford.
Luis Mendoza played in Wilmington while in the Boston system.
It was 30 years ago today – July 13, 1982 – that Royals sent their largest-ever contingent to an All-Star Game: five players along with manager Dick Howser, who served as a coach, and trainer Mickey Cobb.
George Brett was the starting third baseman, while four players served as reserves: designated hitter Hal McRae, reliever Dan Quisenberry, second baseman Frank White and outfielder Willie Wilson.
The National League won 4-1 at Stade Olympique in Montreal.