Elliot Johnson’s strong play of late is earning him some more time at second base.
By PETE GRATHOFF and BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Johnson made his fourth start in the last five games Saturday, even though his modest four-game hitting streak was snapped Friday.
“He’s swinging the bat well and playing exceptional defense. He’s made some nice plays up the middle,” manager Ned Yost said. “But when (Chris Getz) Getzie gets hot, we’ll ride him. Our record with Getz in the lineup is well above .500 for the last two years. He does a lot of things, too.
“It’s just that we’re riding Elliot because he’s swinging the bat well now. Getzie is scuffling a little bit, but that all changes (at some point).”
Since April 30, Johnson has batted .400 (eight for 20) with a homer and three runs scored.
Johnson is naturally happy for the additional playing time — and for the reason it’s happening.
“What’s gratifying more than anything else is earning the trust of Ned to be considered as an option to help the team win that night,” Johnson said. “I think the more you play, the more you’re proving and showing you’re helping the team win on a regular basis.”
For the season, Johnson has hit .265 with a pair of stolen bases. He hasn’t made an error at any of the positions he’s played: second, third or shortstop.
“Any chance you get your name in the lineup is an opportunity to do something to help the team,” Johnson said. “Really, all I’m trying to do is just take the opportunity to win that night.”
Johnson singled his first time up, stole a base and scored on a single by Lorenzo Cain. Johnson later turned a nifty double play in the sixth inning.
Jeff Francoeur returned to the lineup Saturday after the Royals started Jarrod Dyson in two of their previous three games.
Yost said it’s not a platoon situation.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s not a platoon. Frenchy is going to play (today) against (Yankees right-hander Hiroki) Kuroda.
“Whoever starts is the starter. It changes day to day for no reason other than that this guy is hot or because of the matchup.”
Memories of Pettitte
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer sure has a way of making a guy feel old.
Before facing Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in Saturday night’s game, Hosmer said he remembered going to Yankee Stadium at about age 10. In fact, he pretended to be Pettitte when playing pitcher as a kid in his back yard.
Pettitte is now 40, while Hosmer is 23.
“I had grandparents in New York, so I’d always go and visit them,” Hosmer said. “Every time we’d go to a Yankee game in the summer, it always seemed like Andy Pettitte was pitching. It’s always fun facing veteran guys who have been around for a while, but once the game starts, you’re trying to win a ballgame.”
Hosmer had a single against Pettitte.
The Royals released veteran reliever Dan Wheeler from their Class AAA Omaha roster. Wheeler, 35, was 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA in 15 innings over 11 appearances for the Storm Chasers.
Wheeler signed a minor-league contract with the Royals on Dec. 16, 2012, and spent much of spring training in big-league camp before getting reassigned March 28 to Omaha.
A right-hander, Wheeler is 25-43 with a 3.98 ERA in 589 games with five teams over a 13-year career.
It was 29 years ago today that Mark Gubicza got his first major-league victory. He did it in style, too, with a four-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox at then-Royals Stadium.
Gubicza, now 50, was 132-135 in a 13-year career with the Royals during 1984-96. He was 0-1 in 1997 for the Angels prior to his retirement.
The Royals inducted Gubicza into their Hall of Fame in 2006.
• Billy Butler’s home run in the fourth inning was his 500th career RBI.
• The Royals are 6-1 in Sunday games heading into today’s series finale against the Yankees.
• Starter James Shields is now 7-15 in his career against the Yankees.
To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff