Rookie David Lough’s first big-league starting assignment in center field ended Wednesday when he suffered a mild strain to his right hamstring in the ninth inning after reaching first on a fielder’s-choice grounder.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but manager Ned Yost said Lough is unlikely to play in tonight’s series finale against Texas at Kauffman Stadium.
“We’ll find out, but I doubt it,” Yost said. “If you come out of the game with a slight hamstring (strain), you’re probably going to need a day.”
Lough apparently suffered the injury while avoiding a game-ending double play on a grounder to first with one out in the ninth inning. Lough prolonged the game by beating the return throw by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Jarrod Dyson replaced Lough as a pinch-runner and scored from first on Alcides Escobar’s two-out single, but the Royals still came up one run short in a 7-6 loss.
Lough drew the starting assignment in center, after three starts in right field, as part of his September audition.
“We want to see him there,” Yost confirmed. “When you put together your club for next year, David fits into that guy who can be your extra outfielder. We need to see him some in center.”
Lough, 26, is no stranger to center field. He started there for 11 straight games at Class AAA Omaha prior to his recall last Saturday to the big leagues.
“Once Wil (Myers) got moved to third base,” he said, “I was playing center every day. So probably a good two or three weeks. I feel comfortable.”
In all, Lough started 37 games this season in center at Omaha. That pushed his minor-league total to 186 starts in center over six pro seasons.
Outfield coach Rusty Kuntz said Lough improved significantly this season those additional early work – specifically, power shagging in batting practice. That’s the same approach that Alex Gordon credits for his emergence as a Gold Glove outfielder.
Power shagging is where an outfielder tracks fly balls and line drives in batting practice while attempting to simulate game conditions.
“David took power shagging during batting practice seriously for the first time,” said Kuntz, whose duties earlier this season included extensive work with the organization’s minor-league outfielders.
“It helped him a lot. Jirsch (Omaha manager Mike Jirschele) loved him in center field. He can go get the ball, and his routes are good. When you see his speed, you’ll be surprised. He’s faster than you think.”
Lough’s biggest concern in center was his biggest concern for his three starts in right field: the background created by the stadium’s upper deck – few minor-league stadiums have a high second deck – and the sheer size of the Kauffman acreage.
“It’s tough,” he said. “When balls are hit off the bat, your first read is (usually to come) in. Here, it carries a lot more. That makes it important to get that read off of that. It gets high up there (against the second deck), and you kind of lose it a little bit.
“From what other outfielders say, this is one of the harder places to read ball off of. And it’s a big outfield. It’s huge. When I went out there in right (for the first time last Saturday), I was like, `Dang, this is big.’”
Planning to wait
General manager Dayton Moore said the Royals will “probably” wait until the end of the season to explore the possibility of a new contract with pending free agent Jeremy Guthrie.
That doesn’t indicate a lack of interest in retaining Guthrie, who is 4-3 with a 3.70 ERA in nine starts since arriving in a July 20 trade from Colorado for left-hander Jonathan Sánchez. Guthrie is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his last seven starts.
Moore previously said the Royals want to re-sign Guthrie, a 33-year-old who is making $8.2 million. Guthrie expressed a willingness to discuss a new contract after Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over the Rangers.
“I’m a talker…,” he said. “You can’t control that. I’ve never really been in this situation. So it’s nothing that I’m familiar with. Obviously, I’ll do what I can on my end. Whatever goes on beyond that, I’ll be informed if it happens.”
Generally, Yost plans to limit his “get a look” evaluations this month to games against non-contending teams. Wednesday’s game against the Rangers was a notable exception, largely due to the need to adjust the rotation after last Saturday’s double-header.
“We’ll put our best team out there against the contenders,” he said. “That’s out of fairness to everybody. And we play a lot of contending teams. We’ve got games left with the Angels, and a lot of games left with Chicago and Detroit.
“If we want to look at somebody, we’ll wait for the other series.”
That double-header, which followed a Friday rain-postponement, forced the Royals to use long reliever Everett Teaford on Wednesday as a spot starter. Starting Lough was different; he had started three of the previous four games – albeit in right field.
“That was out of necessity,” Yost said, “or else we wouldn’t have done it. When we play contenders, we’ll put the team on the field that we feel gives us the best chance to win the game.”
Class AAA Omaha outfielder Wil Myers offered quick validation Wednesday to his selection Tuesday by Baseball America and USA Today as the minor-league player of the year.
Myers hit a three-run homer in the first inning that started the Storm Chasers to an 8-4 victory over Albuquerque, a Dodgers affiliate, in the opener of a best-of-five series in the Pacific Coast League.
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings before Roman Colón and Tommy Hottovy closed out the victory. Odorizzi struck out seven, walked two and gave up two homers.
The Storm Chasers are the defending PCL champions. The series continues tonight at Omaha before shifting Friday to Albuquerque. The fourth and fifth games, if necessary, are Saturday and Sunday at Albuquerque.
Class A Wilmington suffered an 8-0 loss at home to Lynchburg, a Braves affiliate, in the start of a best-of-three series in the Carolina League. The Blue Rocks must win road games tonight and Friday to advance to the next round.
It was 10 years ago today – Sept. 6, 2002 – that Carlos Beltran became the first player in franchise history to hit homers from both sides of the plate more than once in his career.
Beltran did it in a 14-7 loss to Seattle at Kauffman Stadium. He hit homers to right field in the third inning while batting left-handed against Freddie Garcia and to left field while batting right-handed in the seventh inning against John Halama.
Both homers were with the bases empty.
Beltran first achieved the both-sides double in 2000 against Cleveland.
Four other players have done it once: Willie Wilson in 1979 at Milwaukee; U.L. Washington in 1979 at Oakland; Chili Davis in 1997 vs. Texas; and Wilson Betemit in 2010 at Minnesota.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.