MINNEAPOLIS — Six weeks into his current big-league tour, Royals outfielder David Lough, even after a hitless night, is still batting .291 and riding a surging wave of confidence.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“You know you’re not going to go out and have a good game every single game,” he said. “You just want to try to help the team win. Just do something.
“I’m just trying to do little things, and I’ve been having some success.”
Lough’s contribution Friday in a 9-3 victory over Minnesota was a diving two-out catch that saved two runs in the fourth inning. That came after he ran down a deep drive in the right-center gap for the inning’s second out.
“The one in the gap was a good catch,” said pitcher James Shields, the prime beneficiary. “Obviously, the one at the end was huge. That would have cleared the bases.”
Let’s reset: The Twins had already scored twice, pulling to within 6-2, when Pedro Florimon sent a twisting drive to right field.
“It was hit hard,” Lough said, “but I thought I had a chance the whole way. With a lefty, it tails a little bit and sinks. I just went after it and made a good play on it.”
Lough’s two catches came one night after he recorded his fourth outfield assist. His defense, along with steady offensive contributions, explain why he’s started 25 of the last 32 games.
“You can see he’s more comfortable than when he first got here,” manager Ned Yost said.
Lough acknowledged he had pressed following his May 17 recall from Class AAA Omaha. He was replacing an injured Jarrod Dyson and, at the time, it wasn’t certain Dyson would miss more than the minimum 15 days.
“I knew what I was getting into,” Lough said. “I knew I had an option left, and I knew Dyson was coming back. I knew all of that stuff. (I put pressure on myself for) the first week or so.
“But then you start to realize, ‘You know what? Whatever happens, happens.’ I know it could have been a short stint for me up here. But I just went out and tried to relax. Just play.”
The numbers reflect the change in approach.
Lough managed just three hits in his first 16 at-bats but is batting .307 since that point in 28 games, including 24 starts. When Dyson returned last Saturday, the Royals cleared spaced by optioning Chris Getz to Omaha.
The move left the Royals with an imbalanced roster — five outfielders and just five infielders (not counting designated hitter Billy Butler). But it underscored a point: Lough was playing too well to send back to the minors.
And coincidence or not, Lough responded with five hits in his next eight at-bats, including a single in the 10th inning Wednesday that led to the winning run in a 4-3 victory over Atlanta.
“I’m just trying to stay consistent,” he said. “Just do the basics. Try to get a good pitch to hit. That’s all I can really do.
“I’m feeling confident that I (belong) up here and can play every day — and prove that I can (do that). I feel good.”
Setback for Paulino
Right-hander Felipe Paulino is battling shoulder soreness, which prompted the Royals to cancel plans to send him back out on a minor-league rehab assignment Sunday at Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
The problem surfaced following Paulino’s work Tuesday in pitching a three-inning simulated game at Kauffman Stadium.
“He developed a little shoulder tenderness,” Yost said. “They’re just evaluating. They’re going to go day to day with him. Nothing serious. It’s more of a precautionary thing.”
Paulino, 29, made one start at Northwest Arkansas in his recovery from Tommy John surgery to replace a torn elbow ligament before soreness in his lower back prompted a reevaluation.
Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie is nursing bruised fingers on his pitching hand as a result of tipping a Joe Mauer line drive in the first inning of Thursday’s loss to the Twins.
Guthrie remained in the game and worked into the seventh inning. He isn’t expected to miss his next start.
For right-hander Brooks Pounders, the hardest part about pitching a no-hitter Thursday in an 11-0 victory over Midland was watching his teammates at Northwest Arkansas score six runs in the eighth inning.
“Going into the eighth was when I realized about (the no-hitter),” Pounders told MiLB.com. “Then we scored six runs, and I had to sit through a pitching change and an injury.
“It seemed like the longest half inning of my life.”
Pounders, 22, then closed out the first complete-game, no-hitter in Northwest Arkansas’ six-year history. He threw 98 pitches, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.
Midland’s only runners came on an error in the third inning and a hit batsman in the fifth.
“Thank you to everyone for all the love tonight,” Pounders tweeted late Thursday. “Speechless right now, it hasn’t set in yet! Thank you again to everyone what a night.”
The Royals released veteran lefty reliever George Sherrill who had a 6.23 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in 21 appearances at Class AAA Omaha.
Sherrill, 36, was attempting a comeback after missing nearly all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 4, 2012 to replace a torn elbow ligament.
An All-Star selection in 2008 while at Baltimore, Sherrill was 19-17 with a 3.77 ERA in 442 career games over nine big-league seasons with four clubs.
The Royals signed Sherrill to a minor-league contract in the offseason.
Infielder Johnny Giavotella is heating up at Omaha, after an extended slump, and again positioning himself for big-league consideration.
Giavotella, 25, is batting .411 in his last 16 games (23 for 56) after going two for four in Friday’s 5-1 loss to Iowa. His overall average is up to .289. He batted .216 in a 38-game stretch prior to his current surge.
It was 11 years ago Saturday — June 29, 2002 — that Mike Sweeney set a club record by hitting a homer in a fifth consecutive game. It was a two-run shot in the sixth inning of an 8-4 loss to San Diego at Kauffman Stadium.
Sweeney’s homer came against future teammate Brett Tomko.
• James Shields got his 90th career victory. He is 90-79 in eight career seasons.
• Eric Hosmer’s only other multihomer game was Aug. 31, 2011 at Detroit. He went three for four in Friday’s victory following a one-for-17 slide in four previous games since returning to the No. 3 slot in the lineup.
• While Shields is just 3-6, the Royals are 9-8 in his 17 starts with six straight victories.
• Billy Butler is batting .519 this season against the Twins (14 for 27) after going three for four.
• Mike Moustakas’ two-run homer also marked his first multi-RBI game since he had three on April 30 in an 8-2 victory over Tampa Bay. That was the day of Shields’ last victory.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.