Royals Notebook

Alcides Escobar shifts lower in lineup against right-handers

Updated: 2013-07-13T04:19:36Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

— The latest lineup tweak by Royals manager Ned Yost has shortstop Alcides Escobar shifting from the No. 2 slot to the bottom third of the order — but probably only against right-handed hitters.

Escobar batted seventh Friday night when the Royals opened a three-game series against Cleveland at Progressive Field. He had batted second in his previous 15 starts.

“It’s like anything else,” Yost said. “You’re playing percentages. Probably against left-handed pitching, we’re going to slot him back at the two again.”

Escobar’s splits are telling.

A .242 average with a .277 on-base percentage in 67 games as the No. 2 hitter and .298 and .327 in 15 games as the No 9 hitter.

A .222 average and .258 OBP in 256 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, and .302 and .327 in 113 plate appearances against lefties.

Escobar batted seventh Friday for the first time this season because Elliot Johnson and Jarrod Dyson drew starts over Johnny Giavotella and Lorenzo Cain. Johnson and Dyson batted eighth and ninth.

“I’m trying to look at all of our run-scoring opportunities,” Yost said. “If (Escobar) has better numbers when he’s down at the bottom (against right-handed pitchers), it’s better for everybody (to move him down).”

Yost still thinks Escobar projects as a viable No. 2 hitter in the long term. Escobar batted .265 with a .303 OBP last season in 86 games while batting second in the order.

“He’ll get there,” Yost said. “He’ll get back. It’s just right now … I’m trying to create as many run-scoring opportunities as I can.”

Mendoza positive

Right-hander Luis Mendoza is hoping to use his time in the bullpen to recapture his command after losing his job in the rotation to lefty Bruce Chen.

“Of course, I want to keep starting,” Mendoza said. “But it’s their decision, and I respect their decision. I’ll just try to take this as something good and positive. Maybe in the bullpen, I can get my rhythm back.”

Friday would have been Mendoza’s turn in the rotation, but Yost opted for Chen after Mendoza failed to last two innings in Sunday’s 10-4 loss to Oakland at Kauffman Stadium.

It was Mendoza’s second straight rough outing following a 10-start stretch in which he compiled a 3.28 ERA. He permitted a combined nine runs and 11 hits in 52/3 innings, which spiked his overall ERA from 4.16 to 4.87.

“Overall, I don’t think I pitched badly, but the last two starts were hard,” he said. “My command wasn’t there. I feel bad about that because I don’t think I really got hurt with base-hits.

“They were patient with me. They let me pitch, and they saw the sinker kept moving out (of the strike zone). They just let it go. When I came up with my fastball, they hit me.”

When Yost made the switch, he said Mendoza’s struggles might be due to fatigue. Mendoza pitched extensively over the winter in helping Mexico win the Caribbean Series and also participated in the World Baseball Classic.

Mendoza isn’t sure.

“Physically, I don’t feel tired,” he insisted. “My arm is healthy. Mentally, too. But maybe ... I don’t know. Maybe I’m just telling myself, in my mind, that I don’t feel tired.

“Maybe my body is responding differently. Maybe that’s why my ball was dying. I’ll just keep working hard and hope at some point I can come back to the rotation and pitch well.”

3K Club

Royals closer Greg Holland entered the weekend leading the majors with nine three-strikeout, one-inning appearances.

The only other pitcher with more than five is Pittsburgh closer Jason Grilli with seven. Only two others have five such appearances: Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman, and David Robertson of the New York Yankees.

It has happened 155 times overall in the majors.

Four pitchers have done it four times: Steve Delabar, Toronto; Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels; Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta, and Oliver Perez, Seattle.

Salvy Shirt

All-Star catcher Salvy Perez is the people’s choice among Royals fans.

Balloting to determine the subject of a T-shirt giveaway for the Aug. 13 game against Miami selected a design featuring a frontal view of Perez in a catcher’s squat receiving a pitch.

The first 10,000 fans through the gates on Aug. 13 will receive a free “Salvy Shirt,” courtesy of SportClips.

Frenchy starts slow

Former Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur was two for 13 through three games, before Friday, for Class AAA Fresno since signing a minor-league deal with San Francisco.

Francoeur had two singles, one RBI, no walks and two strikeouts while batting third and playing left field. The Giants want him to play left because, if promoted, they don’t want to shift Hunter Pence out of right field.

The Royals designated Francoeur for assignment after a June 29 game in Minnesota. He became a free agent when released July 5 after clearing waivers.

Minor citations

Lo-A Lexington right-hander Miguel Almonte was one of five minor-league pitchers cited by Baseball America in its all-prospect team for June.

Almonte, 20, compiled a 2.36 ERA in six June starts while striking out 38 in 31 innings. He is 3-7 overall this season with a 3.29 ERA in 17 starts.

“He entered June with a walk rate nearing 4.0 per nine innings,” Baseball America reported, “but thanks to quality stuff and ability to diagnose his mechanics on the fly, he cut that rate in half while continuing to miss bats and keep the ball in the park.”

Almonte will be joining Class AAA Omaha right-hander Yordano Ventura on Sunday as members of the World team in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York.

Hi-A Wilmington right-hander Kyle Zimmer was No. 7 on Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet after registering 13 strikeouts over six innings in his only start.

Minor details

Short-season Idaho Falls shortstop Hunter Dozier’s hitting streak ended at 11 games Thursday when he went zero for four in a 10-6 victory at Helena.

Dozier, 21, was the Royals’ first-round pick in last month’s draft. He was 18 for 48 in his 11-game run and entered the weekend with a .294 average in 21 games with 10 doubles, one homer and 13 RBIs.

Looking back

It was 31 years ago Saturday — July 13, 1982 — that the Royals sent their largest contingent in franchise history to the All-Star Game.

George Brett started at third base for the game in Montreal. The American League squad also included designated hitter Hal McRae, closer Dan Quisenberry, second baseman Frank White and outfielder Willie Wilson.

Additionally, manager Dick Howser served as a coach on AL staff, and trainer Mickey Cobb was part of the training and medical staff.

It wasn’t enough. The National League won 4-1.

To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.

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