Royals

Hoping to spark Royals, Yost returns Gordon to leadoff role

Updated: 2013-05-29T03:35:25Z

By BOB DUTTON and SAM McDOWELL

The Kansas City Star

Alex Gordon returned Tuesday to the leadoff spot in the latest effort by Royals manager Ned Yost to rouse the club’s slumbering attack.

“We’ve got to try something different,” Yost said. “Historically, over the last two years, our best production has come with Alex in the one and Billy (Butler) in the four.

“So we’re looking at different ways to try to jump-start the offense. We’ll put Alex back in the one. We’ll start there.”

Lorenzo Cain replaced Gordon as the No. 3 hitter, but it appears Salvy Perez will shift to that role when he returns from bereavement leave. Perez is in Venezuela following the death of his maternal grandmother.

Gordon batted .391 with a .449 on-base percentage in 18 games after his May 9 shift to third in the lineup, but the Royals went 4-14 over that span and never found a productive replacement in the leadoff role.

Gordon said his approach won't change much as he shifts back to his original role.

"Every player needs to look at themselves and do what they can to play hard and win a game," Gordon said. "I just come in every day as a new day to make something happen and help the team win a ballgame."

The numbers, Yost says, suggest he helps most when hitting leadoff.

“We’ve been looking at it, studying it,” Yost said. “We’ve been trying to put numbers to it and doing the sabermetric thing. I just think you continue to juggle and massage and move (players around) until we break out of it.

“When you break it down, yes, we haven’t been scoring much, but we’ve been right there. We just need to break through and score some runs.”

Cain was one of five players who auditioned in the leadoff spot. The others were Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar, Chris Getz and David Lough.

Pressure is on

Royals general manager Dayton Moore says the recent slide has added pressure within the organization. It won’t, however, cause the front office to panic.

In a 10-minute meeting with the media before Tuesday’s game, Moore reiterated many of the same points he made in an interview with The Star last week.

“We just have to fight through it,” Moore said. “We’re prepared to do that. If pressure turns to panic, then you have a problem.”

Moore used a similar description when assessing the struggles of third baseman Mike Moustakas, who is in a three-for-45 slump and is batting .178 with four homers and 12 RBIs for the season.

Moore said a demotion to AAA Omaha is not in the offing for Moustakas. For now, anyway.

“There are three basic processes that I challenge myself with when sending a player down,” Moore said. “Is this struggling player staying positive and working hard? Does the coaching staff remain positive in this struggling player? And do his teammates continue to rally around this struggling player?

“As long as those three things are occurring, it’s very difficult as a general manager to make a change. You’ve got to trust the people that you’ve hired to help this player get through it.

“But no doubt — there comes a point in time if a player continues to struggle and we think we need a mental break and one of those processes breaks down that you have to evaluate it. And then you want to next look at what’s the alternative.”

As of now, though, Moore said he thinks Moustakas is the franchise’s best option.

“Right now, there’s nobody that we feel is a better fit than the alternatives we have up here,” he said.

Dyson update

Injured outfielder Jarrod Dyson received medical clearance prior to Tuesday’s game to begin jogging to test his recovery from a high right ankle sprain.

“I still feel a little pain there, but it’s just a process I’ve got to go through,” he said. “I went 90 feet four times. They were just trying to get a gauge if the pain stayed with me after I stopped. It’s going away when I stop.”

Dyson suffered the injury May 15 while climbing the center-field wall at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., in pursuit of a Mike Trout homer. Dyson said he doesn’t have a timetable for his return.

“I don’t know anything yet,” he said. “Maybe after (the club) comes back off the road (following a weekend series at Texas), I’ll know a lot more.

“I feel I’m going to be all right. I’ve made some pretty good progress and, hopefully, I’m back in the lineup within a couple of weeks.”

Starling on track

Sticking with his theme for the day, Moore said he wasn’t worried about the production — or lack thereof — from Bubba Starling, the organization’s top pick (fifth overall) in the 2011 draft.

Starling is batting .206 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 43 games while playing for Low-A Lexington.

“He’s going to be fine. He’s right where he needs to be,” Moore said. “He’s right where we thought he’d be when we selected him.”

Starling underwent Lasik eye surgery this month because he was having a difficult time seeing the ball in night games.

He is five for 28 since the surgery.

“It’s going to take a little time,” Moore said. “As long as you’ve got a guy (who’s) an athlete as gifted as he his and somebody’s mindset and desire to compete is what it is … you’ve got to trust his talent that he’s going to come out on the winning end.”

Cardinals tap Wacha

The Cardinals confirmed plans to promote right-hander Michael Wacha from Class AAA Memphis to start Thursday’s concluding game of the I-70 Series at Busch Stadium.

Wacha, 21, was the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He is 4-0 in eight starts at Memphis and leads the Pacific Coast League with a 2.05 ERA.

The Cardinals will announce a corresponding space-clearing move prior to Thursday’s game.

The Royals’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft, right-hander Kyle Zimmer, is 0-4 at Hi-A Wilmington with a 5.28 ERA in 10 starts.

Minor awards

Hi-A Wilmington left-hander John Lamb was picked as the Carolina League pitcher of the week for May 20-26 after working seven scoreless innings in his only appearance.

Lamb, 22, is in his first full season back since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2011 to replace a torn elbow ligament. He is 3-4 with a 5.27 ERA in eight starts.

Club officials say Lamb’s fastball hasn’t regained the velocity it had before surgery. He is touching 91 mph and working regularly at 86-88 mph.

Minor details

Lo-A Lexington shortstop Raul Adalberto Mondesi, who served Monday as a designated hitter, was picked as Baseball America’s prospect hitter of the day after batting for the cycle in a 7-4 victory over Kannapolis.

The Royals released outfielder Alex Llanos, a 22-year-old who was batting .180 in 15 games at Wilmington and Class AA Northwest Arkansas. He was the organization’s player of the year in 2009 at Rookie Surprise.

Looking back

It was 18 years ago Wednesday — May 29, 1995 — that Gary Gaetti hit two home runs in a 12-0 victory over Texas at Kauffman Stadium.

The two homers were the eighth and ninth of the month for Gaetti, which set a club record for May. The previous best was John Mayberry with eight in May 1973.

The overall club record for homers in a month is 12, shared by Mayberry (July 1975) and Chili Davis (August 1997).

To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/Royals_Report. To reach Sam McDowell, send email to smcdowell@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.

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