NEW YORK — Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was as surprised as anyone at learning he was starting in right field for Saturday’s game against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“Woke up to the news,” Hosmer said, then laughed as he quickly changed into his uniform in the clubhouse. “It’s probably better that way. We’ve got to get the offense in there. Shouldn’t be bad.”
It wasn’t bad. Hosmer never had a defensive chance through six innings in right field before shifting to first base when the Royals realigned their defense in the seventh inning while holding a 3-1 lead.
Still, it was a surprise move. Hosmer said he hasn’t worked in the outfield since training, but manager Ned Yost, in a search for offense, wanted Hosmer and designated hitter Billy Butler in the lineup.
The tipping point, Yost said, was the decision not to start catcher Salvy Perez, who worked all 11 innings of Friday’s 4-2 loss.
“I made out like six lineups before I decided I was going to do that,” Yost said. “With Sal and Billy (Butler) not in the lineup, it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I’ve got the have some offense.”
It comes at a cost to a defense that is widely credited for the club’s success.
“You can’t have it both ways in a National League game,” Yost conceded. “You’ve got to pick what you need. Hopefully, we can get the lead, and readjust in the sixth inning and get our defensive alignment right.
“But we’ve got to have the lead first.”
It all seemed to be working out. The Royals got the lead, and weren’t burned by their patchwork defense before Yost reset the lineup for defensive purposes. The Mets then scored twice in the eighth inning.
The game went into 12th before Justin Maxwell’s leadoff pinch homer provided the winning margin in a 4-3 victory.
Yost faces the same choice Sunday, when the Royals play their final interleague road game in the series finale. At the moment, Yost indicated he’ll play it straight up behind Ervin Santana.
“But don’t hold me to it,” he said. “I’ve got all night to think about it.”
Gordon bats cleanup
Putting Hosmer in right field for the first time this season wasn’t the only major tweak in Saturday’s lineup. Left fielder Alex Gordon batted cleanup for the first time since May 19, 2012.
“It was Gordy or Butler (at cleanup),” Yost said. “Then who hits third (if Gordon remains as leadoff hitter)? Gordy’s numbers with runners in scoring position, he’s hitting .340.”
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain replaced Gordon as the leadoff hitter.
“The National League messes with our lineup a little bit,” Gordon said. “Batting fourth? I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter.”
Gordon went hitless in four at-bats although he contributed a sacrifice fly to a three-run third inning.
The Mets realigned their rotation after using right-hander Carlos Torres, who had been scheduled to start Saturday, for the final two innings of Friday’s victory.
Right-hander Jeremy Hefner shifted from Sunday to Saturday, and the Royals will now face right-hander Zack Wheeler in Sunday’s series finale. Wheeler had been slotted for Tuesday’s series opened against Colorado.
The Mets are also bracing for bad news on All-Star third baseman David Wright, whom they placed on the disabled list after he suffered a strained right hamstring while beating out an infield single in Friday’s game.
Plans called for Wright to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Saturday at the Hospital for Special Surgery across the East River in Manhattan.
Collins rejoins club
Lefty reliever Tim Collins, as expected, rejoined the club after missing one game to visit a sick grandfather. He nearly made it back in time for the end of Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Mets in extra innings.
“His granddad went in for surgery,” Yost said. “You know what? There’s more to life than a baseball game. This was his grandfather we’re talking about.”
Collins delivered a key strikeout Saturday that preserved a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning after replacing Luke Hochevar with two outs and runners at first and second.
Guthrie offers rare perspective
Want a player’s inside look at the game? Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie is taking requests through his Twitter account (@TheRealJGuts) for photos around various ballparks.
“People send me a request for something they want to see, and I (tweet) out a picture,” he said. “It’s been going real well. I’ve picked up 1,000 followers this week.”
Guthrie sent out a call early Saturday for requests:
“Being here @ Citi Field means I have now been to all major-league parks. Gonna explore, you wanna see a pic of anything? #CitiPic”
Early requests included the view from the last row of the upper deck, Guthrie’s locker, a shot of first-base coach Rusty Kuntz in pre-game work and a shot of Big Apple at Citi Field.
Guthrie said he hopes to make it a regular feature at various ballparks.
Tentative revised plans for injured second baseman Chris Getz have him remaining with the big-league club through the weekend as he recovers from a sprained left knee.
Barring setbacks, Getz is then expected to head to Class AAA Omaha for a minor-league rehab assignment. He aggravated a previous knee injury July 27 on a play at second base in the ninth inning of 1-0 victory at Chicago.
“He’ll fly back (Sunday night) to Kansas City with us and then go to Omaha” on a rehab assignment, Yost said. “He’s still at about 90 percent. He’s not quite there yet.”
The Royals placed Getz on the disabled list last Thursday to clear space for outfielder Justin Maxwell, whom they obtained the previous day in a trade with Houston.
Getz’s injury was backdated to July 28, which means he isn’t eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list until Aug. 12.
Lefty Danny Duffy continues to position himself for a possible recall from Omaha. He struck out nine in five innings Friday night while allowing one run in a 9-3 victory at Tacoma.
Duffy has allowed just two run over 16 innings while striking out 18 in his last three starts at Omaha.
He also had a 13-strikeout performance in 5 1/3 innings in that span for Class AA Northwest Arkansas during the Triple-A All-Star break.
It was 19 years ago Saturday — Aug. 3, 1994 — that Bob Hamelin set a franchise rookie record by hitting his 23rd homer of the season in a 9-5 victory over Oakland.
That surpassed Bo Jackson, who hit 22 in 1987. Hamelin would hit just one more homer in 1994 before a strike shut down the season. His 24 homers remain the franchise rookie record.
That victory over Oakland stretched the Royals’ winning streak to 12. It would reach 14 — the second-longest streak in franchise history. Four games later, a strike shut down the season.
Coincidentally, the strike ended Jackson’s career. He didn’t return in 1995.