DETROIT — Luis Mendoza must wait a little longer to return to the mound after rain forced a postponement Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series between the Royals and Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Manager Ned Yost said he plans to skip Mendoza’s turn again in the rotation as a result of the rainout. Mendoza hasn’t pitched since April 12 against Toronto.
Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Wade Davis, will pitch Wednesday — weather permitting — and James Shields will keep his scheduled turn in Thursday afternoon’s series finale.
Yost said Mendoza will be available Wednesday as a reliever and is tentatively slotted to return to the rotation on April 28 against Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium.
That plan means Davis will drop behind Mendoza on the next cycle and start April 29 against the Indians.
Mendoza minimized the effect of the extended layoff.
“I just throw bullpens between games,” Mendoza said. “When I was in the bullpen, after games, I’d throw 50 pitches to keep my arm loose. Then I do my regular (starting routine) like running and the gym.
“I made it into a positive. Maybe it will give my arm a rest after a busy (off-season in) winter ball. You have to think like that. Maybe that will help me stay healthy for the rest of the season.”
Mendoza also sees a benefit in not having to pitch in the cold weather — and Wednesday’s forecasted high is in the mid-40s with temperatures expected to dip into the 30s during the game.
“I use no seams (on the grip) for my sinker,” he said. “So I need to feel the ball. If I grab the seams, I get blisters. I’ve had that problem before. That’s why I grab it between the seams.
“When it’s cold, and I can’t feel the ball that well, that’s a little hard for me.”
The rainout sets up a matchup between Shields and Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Thursday afternoon’s series finale.
While the Royals are skipping Mendoza, Detroit manager Jim Leyland simply pushed his scheduled starters for the first two games — Max Scherzer and Verlander — back one day.
It’s all weather permitting, however. The forecast calls for 50 percent chance of rain on Wednesday and a 40 percent chance on rain on Thursday.
A makeup date for Tuesday’s postponement was not announced, although it will come during one of the Royals‘ two remaining trips to Detroit — i.e., there won’t be a doubleheader Wednesday or Thursday.
The Royals return Aug. 15-18 for a four-game series and Sept. 13-15 for a three-game series.
Both clubs have open dates on Aug. 19 and Sept. 12 but would need union approval to play on those dates because of the rule that prohibits clubs from playing more than 20 consecutive days without such approval.
The Tigers purchased the contract of reliever Jose Valverde after Tuesday’s rainout from Class A Lakeland. He is expected to arrive in time and serve as the Tigers‘ closer.
Detroit reacquired Valverde their former closer, by signing him April 4 to a minor-league contract after he failed to sign elsewhere as a free agent. He made three scoreless appearances at Lakeland.
Valverde, 35, spent the previous three seasons as the Tigers‘ closer. He compiled a 3.00 ERA in 200 games while registering 110 saves in 118 chances.
The Royals saw a lot of Valverde in the last three years — and had little success. He compiled a 1.98 ERA in 23 innings over 20 appearances while saving 18 games in 20 chances.
The Tigers cleared space for Valverde by optioning right-hander Brayan Villarreal to Class AAA Toledo.
Left-hander Will Smith concluded a wild three-day odyssey Monday night by pitching six strong innings for Class AAA Omaha in a 12-3 victory at Nashville.
Smith spent Saturday traveling from Omaha to Boston after being recalled by the Royals to serve as the 26th man for their Sunday day-night doubleheader.
His flight itinerary went from Omaha to Chicago (where he learned of the recall) to Nashville (to get his gear) to Chicago for a connection to Boston. He spent Sunday unused in the Royals’ bullpen during their sweep.
Smith rejoined the Storm Chasers Monday Nashville, where he took the mound and gave up one run and five hits in six innings while striking out eight and walking none.
Ex-Royals closer Joakim Soria, now with Texas, suffered a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. A strained pectoral muscle is expected to sideline him for two-to-three weeks.
That revises his timetable for rejoining the Rangers’ bullpen to July.
“I was so close but this ain't going to stop me,” Soria said on his Twitter account. “I know I will be back. God knows his plan!!!!!”
Soria spent six years with the Royals and was an All-Star in 2008 and 2010. He signed last December with Texas as a free agent for a guaranteed $8 million over two years.
It was one year ago Wednesday — April 24, 2012 — that the Royals’ losing streak hit 12 games when Jonathan Sanchez suffered a 4-3 loss in Cleveland.
That loss dropped the Royals to 3-14 and left them seven games out of first place. They ended their skid the following night with an 8-2 victory over the Indians behind Luke Hochevar.