Early returns are validating manager Ned Yost’s belief that left fielder Alex Gordon could be as productive — perhaps more productive — if switched from the leadoff role to third in the lineup.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Gordon has hits in seven straight games and is batting .321 in 13 games since shifting roles with six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs — despite going hitless in eight at-bats in his first two games after the move.
“I don’t change anything,” he said. “I don’t think it matters where I hit.”
Gordon’s surge after some initial scuffling mirrors his season. Since batting .167 through the first 17 games, he is on a .315 surge. His 44 doubles are the most in either league and put him on pace to finish with 55 — one more than Hal McRae’s 1982 club record.
Francoeur sits again
Slumping right fielder Jeff Francoeur wasn’t in the starting lineup for the second time in three games. Lorenzo Cain replaced Francoeur in right field, while Jarrod Dyson started in center.
Francoeur is mired in an extended slump – batting .086 with one RBI in his last 10 games and just .181 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 55 games since June 19. His overall average is down to .232 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs in 119 games.
“He’s struggling right now,” Yost conceded.
• Wednesday’s game: 13,024
• 2012 season (through 60 games): 1,366,758
• 2011 season (through 60 games): 1,220,879
• Ahead: 145,879
• 2012 average: 22,406
• 2011 average: 20,014
Fall League participants
Left-hander Justin Marks, recently promoted to Class AAA Omaha, will be among the organization’s eight players taking part in the Arizona Fall League, which bills itself as a finishing school for top prospects.
Class AA Northwest Arkansas outfielder Brian Fletcher was previously identified as the Royals’ “priority player,” a designation that is meant to guarantee maximum playing time.
Other selections announced Wednesday: Class A Wilmington right-hander Edwin Carl, and three more Northwest Arkansas players: left-hander Jon Keck, infielder Alex McClure and outfielder Whit Merrifield.
Wilmington shortstop Orlando Calixte was picked as a “taxi squad” player, which means he can only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. One more pitcher will be selectedlater.
All eight will play for the Surprise Saguaros, who play their home games at Surprise Stadium — the Royals’ spring home. The Saguaros will also be stocked by players from Red Sox, Mets, Cardinals and Rangers.
The AFL schedule begins Oct. 9 and concludes with a Nov. 17 championship game. The Rising Stars Game is Nov. 3 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Ariz., the spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
The Royals acquired Marks, 24, with right-hander Vin Mazzaro from Oakland in a Nov. 10, 2010, trade for outfielder David DeJesus.
The AFL provides the Royals with an additional evaluation period on Marks and Keck. Both will be eligible in December for selection in the Rule 5 Draft if not placed on the 40-man roster.
Marks was picked this year as a Texas League All-Star and was 3-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 17 games at Class AA Northwest Arkansas prior to his promotion to Omaha. His time in the AFL will enable to gain innings missed this year because of an injury.
Short-season Burlington opened the Appalachian League playoffs Wednesday with a 2-1 loss at Johnson City, a Cardinals’ affiliate that is the league’s two-time defending champion.
The best-of-three series shifts tonight and, if necessary, Friday night to Burlington.
The Royals went 41-25 in winning the East Division pennant. Johnson City, 39-28, finished second in the West Division.
Right-hander Christian Binford gave up just one run and three hits in six innings but took the loss. Center fielder Bubba Starling went zero for two with two walks.
Lefty Colin Rodgers, 3-1 and 2.05, is scheduled to start tonight’s game. An 18-year-old, he was the Royals’ third-round pick in this year’s draft.
The Royals reached agreement on two-year extensions with their two short-season affiliates, Idaho Falls and Burlington, through the 2014 season.
The extensions continue player-development contracts that began in 2004 with Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League and in 2007 with Burlington of the Appalachian League.
The Royals are likely to shift their low Class A affiliate after spending the last two years at Kane County in the Midwest League. Their preference is to find an affiliate in the South Atlantic League.
It was 32 years ago today — Aug. 30, 1980 — that George Brett set a franchise record that still stands by collecting 52 hits in a month. He went three for six in a 7-5 loss to Texas in 11 innings at then-Royals Stadium.
Brett finished that day at .406. He had a chance to extend that record the following day, Aug. 31, but went zero for three with two walks. That dropped his average to .403.
• The Royals’ last 1-0 victory over the Tigers was Sept. 1, 2004, by a rookie named Zack Greinke, who went seven innings before Jaime Cerda, D.J. Carrasco and Jeremy Affeldt completed the shutout.
• Alcides Escobar achieved a personal best in the third inning by stealing his club-leading 27th base. He previous best was 26 a year ago.
• The Royals are 22-16 in one-run games.
• This was the Royals’ third 1-0 victory of the season. The others were June 5 vs. Minnesota (started by Bruce Chen) and Aug. 21 at Tampa Bay (started by Luke Hochevar).
• Greg Holland has allowed one earned run in 141/3 innings since becoming the club’s closer.
• Chen got his 10th victory and is the Royals’ first lefty to reach double figures in three straight seasons since Charlie Leibrant’s five-year run for 1984-88.