The Royals’ two cornerstone infielders are likely done for the season.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Third baseman Mike Moustakas aggravated a strained left groin on a slide at second base in the sixth inning of Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers, while first baseman Eric Hosmer said a follow-up examination confirmed a strain in his right rotator cuff.
With just two games remaining, it appears unlikely either will play again – although Hosmer continues to hold out hope.
“It’s still day to day,” he said. “I’m coming in early every day and making an effort.”
Hosmer said his examination by Dr. Vincent Key, the club’s primary physician, confirmed a previous diagnosis in Cleveland of a slight tear (a strain) in his rotator cuff. Hosmer suffered the injury last Thursday while diving for a grounder in Detroit.
“Dr. Key confirmed what the other doctors said after taking the MRI,” Hosmer said. “He said I put a pretty good strain on it. He said it’s rehabbing well right now. It’s just the strength is not there right now.”
Moustakas exited Sunday’s game in Cleveland because of a strained groin but characterized the injury as “nothing” and returned Monday to the lineup. Manager Ned Yost said Moustakas is unlikely to play again after aggravating the injury.
One of the many evaluations taking place in the season’s closing days is whether Irving Falu or Tony Abreu is a better fit next season as the Royals’ utility infielder. There’s only room for one.
“Abreu has more power,” Yost said. “They’re both very solid defensively. Falu might hit for a little more of an average. He can bunt and hit-and-run. I feel good putting both of those guys at any infield position.
“And if something happens, they’re both equal at short. That’s the hard spot to find.”
Falu and Abreu are each seeing extra time in the season’s closing days, in part, because of that evaluation process. Falu started his third straight game Monday, replacing Johnny Giavotella at second base, for the series opener against Detroit at Kauffman Stadium.
Abreu started the three previous games. An injury to shortstop Alcides Escobar, who missed the last three games, created some opportunities; but Giavotella has started just twice in the last six games.
The Royals have no immediate decision to make on Giavotella who, at this point, projects to come to camp next February and battle Chris Getz for a starting job.
Abreu rates an edge over Falu in one important area: Abreu is out of options; Falu can still be sent next season to the minors without going through waivers. The bigger question might be whether the Royals believe they can fit both on their 40-man roster.
“They both look good anywhere you put them in the field,” Yost said. “It starts as a utility guy, but you’ve got to be able to play two or three weeks if something happens to one of your main guys. Both of them are good enough to do that.”
Falu, 29, finally reached the majors this season after nine-plus seasons in the Royals’ farm system following his selection in the 21st round of the 2003 draft. He is batting .354 with six doubles in 22 games.
Abreu, 27, signed with the Royals last December as a minor-league free agent after spending parts of the three previous seasons in the big leagues with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. He is batting .265 with 15 RBIs in 21 games.
Escobar returned to the lineup after missing all three weekend games in Cleveland because of a bruised right shoulder suffered on a diving play in Thursday’s loss at Detroit. He chafed at the caution while insisting he was able to play.
“I’m finally back today,” he said. “I’m fine. I threw Sunday, and I felt good.”
Escobar went one for five in Monday’s loss and turned in a web-gem play on Omar Infante’s grounder in the third inning.
The Royals collected their 51st outfield assist when left fielder Alex Gordon threw out Andy Dirks at third base in the fifth inning. Dirks tried to go from first to third on Avasail Garcia’s one-out single to left.
Gordon threw out Dirks easily for his 17th assist, which is two behind teammate Jeff Francoeur for the major-league lead. Gordon set a club record last season with 20 outfield assists.
The Royals’ 51 outfield assists lead the majors and match last year’s major-league-leading total for the second-highest total in franchise history. The 1969 club recorded 53 outfield assists.
Collins wins NE award
Royals reliever Tim Collins, a native of Worcester, Mass., was picked as the New England Player of the Year in a vote by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“I’m not sure how they determined that,’ Collins said, “but it’s a pretty cool honor. They are guys who have won that award.”
Previous recipients of the Ben Mondor Award, which dates to 1979, include Carlos Peña, Mo Vaughn, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Reardon and Tom Glavine. Last year’s recipient was Arizona infielder John McDonald.
Northwest Arkansas was picked as the Class AA Texas League organization of the year, which is a remarkable achievement given their 58-81 record – their first losing record since the franchise relocated in 2008 from Wichita.
The Naturals were 21-48 in the second half after outfielder Wil Myers and right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi were promoted to Class AAA Omaha. The franchise still averaged more than 4,600 in attendance at home game.
Texas League president Tom Kayser said, “The Naturals also do a wonderful job working within their entire community, successfully partnering with a wide range of groups, helping to produce over $270,000 in cash and in-kind donations for over 100 non-profit organizations.”
It was 35 years ago Tuesday – Oct. 2, 1977 – that Al Cowens and Hal McRae became the first players in franchise history to play in all 162 games of a regular season. Carlos Beltran matched that feat in 2002.
Gordon and Billy Butler can reach 161 games if they play tonight and Wednesday.