DETROIT — Utilityman Elliot Johnson won’t get a chance to atone for this costly error in Wednesday’s loss to Miami — at least not in a Royals uniform. Not right away, anyway.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The Royals designated Johnson for assignment Thursday afternoon in order to clear space for utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, whom they acquired Wednesday in a trade from Toronto for cash or a player to be named later.
The move to designate Johnson occurred after the Royals determined third baseman Mike Moustakas won’t likely require time on the disabled list while he recovers from a strained left calf.
“(Johnson) can do some things,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a good player. If he doesn’t get claimed, we may get him to (Class AAA) Omaha and get him some at-bats and see what happens.”
The Royals have 10 days to reach a resolution on Johnson either through a trade, by releasing him or sending him through waivers. If he is released, the Royals remained obligated for the balance of his salary of $520,500.
Johnson, 29, is out of options, which means he can’t be sent to the minors without his consent — which he could grant if he clears waivers. He departs in a zero-for-31 slump that dropped his average to .179 in 79 games.
His two-base error at third base on a spinning grounder in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game, with the Royals leading 2-1, led to two unearned runs in what turned into a 5-2 loss.
“If I attack the ball, then it’s routine,” Johnson said. “It’s no big deal, and we probably get the win.”
The Royals acquired Johnson from Tampa Bay as a player to be named later in the big Dec. 9, 2012 deal that netted pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis for a four-prospect package that included outfielder Wil Myers.
Johnson is a 12-year professional who has a .212 average and .267 on-base percentage in 279 career big-league games.
No. 64 onboard
Bonifacio looked at the available uniform numbers upon joining the Royals and chose to become the first player in franchise history to wear 64 outside of spring training.
“I picked that one because that’s the number I wear in the Dominican in winter ball,” he explained. “Even my little brother, when I talked to him, said, ‘Just wear 64.’ So why not?”
Bonifacio’s little brother, outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, is playing at Class AA Northwest Arkansas and is generally regarded as one of the Royals’ top prospects.
“He called me right away (after the trade),” Emilio Bonifacio said. “He was excited. I never thought it would happen.”
Bonifacio, 28, started Thursday at third base in place of an injured Moustakas and went one for four. He showed a smooth defensive touch and stole a base.
“Anywhere they need me,” he said. “My regular position is second, but I can play anywhere they need me.”
Bonifacio batted .218 for the Blue Jays with 16 doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs in 262 at-bats over 94 games. But he batted .296 as recently as 2011 for the Marlins.
“He had a heck of a year two years ago,” Yost said. “It’s still there.”
Toronto obtained Bonifacio in a 12-player trade last November from Miami. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos indicated he expected Toronto would receive cash (rather than a player) from the Royals.
A switch-hitter, Bonifacio is completing a $2.6 million contract and will be under club control through next season. He has a .261 average and a .319 on-base percentage in 570 games over seven seasons with four teams.
Moustakas is walking without a noticeable limp for the first time since suffering a strained left calf while running the bases in Monday’s 6-2 victory over Miami.
The training staff also cleared Moustakas for light on-field activities prior to Thursday’s game. He played catch but did not take part in any agility drills.
“Depending on how he feels (after) today,” Yost said, “we’ll take it a step further (on Friday).”
The Royals continue to hope Moustakas could be ready, at minimum, for pinch-hitting duties by Saturday or Sunday.
It appears James Shields won’t square off for a third time this season with Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Both are scheduled to pitch in Friday’s day/night doubleheader but not against each other.
The tentative matchups show Verlander facing lefty Danny Duffy at 12:05 p.m. Central time in the first game (a makeup for an April 25 rainout). Shields will pitch at 6:05 p.m. Central against Tigers lefty Jose Alvarez.
Duffy and Alvarez will each be recalled, officially, from the minors on Friday under the 26th-player provision for doubleheaders.
The Royals are 3-0 this season in games started by Verlander, although they rallied against the Detroit bullpen for victories in the two games started by Shields. The Royals beat Verlander on July 20 behind Jeremy Guthrie.
Catcher Salvy Perez is back to his old mask after experimenting with a model similar to what a hockey goalie wears during his recent weeklong recovery from a concussion.
“It just felt more comfortable,” Perez said.
Former catcher Jason Kendall, who now serves as an unofficial coach, contends the old-style mask that Perez favors actually affords more padding against foul tips.
Coleman: Zero man
One guy who’s yet to endure a slump this season is right-hander reliever Louis Coleman, who still hasn’t allowed a run in 16 appearances covering 18 innings this season.
Coleman, who has split time between the Royals and Class AAA Omaha, is 2-0 and has allowed only eight hits with three walks while striking out 20. He had a 1.61 ERA in 24 games at Omaha prior to his July 8 promotion.
“I’m throwing more strikes and getting ahead of guys,” he said. “I’m more on line and not throwing so much across my body, so I’m better able to repeat my delivery. It’s also easier to adjust from pitch to pitch.”
Coleman, 27, put up decent numbers from the Royals’ bullpen in 2011 and 2012 as well, but allowed 4.2 walks per nine innings with a 1.238 WHIP. Those numbers are down to 1.5 and 0.611 this season.
Of course, Coleman refuses to take all the credit.
“The guys have made some good plays behind me, and Timmy (Collins) bailed me out (Monday) night,” he said. “I know about (the streak) just because I’m human, but that’s the last thing I’m thinking about on the mound.”
Still, Coleman won’t mind if his continued success keeps him off the Interstate 29 shuttle between Kansas City and Omaha.
“It’s been fun to be a part of the bullpen,” he said, “and, I think everyone would say, this is the most fun we’ve had playing baseball in the last couple years. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Baltimore closer Jim Johnson blew his ninth save Wednesday when the Orioles lost 5-4 at Arizona in 14 innings. That was the eighth loss by the Orioles in a game when Johnson blew a save.
Now comes this nugget from stat cruncher-supreme Bill Chuck of billy-ball.com:
Since 1984, the team with the most losses following blown save by a specific reliever is the Royals with 10 such defeats in 2006 after Ambiorix Burgos spit back a lead.
Now … the Royals did win on two of the 12 occasions when Burgos blew a save (he was 18 for 30) in 2006.
The last time a team lost more times when a specific reliever blew a save were Minnesota’s 11 losses behind Ron Davis in 1984.
It was 27 years ago Friday — Aug. 16, 1986 — that Hal McRae became the first player in franchise history to get 1,000 RBIs in a Royals uniform.
McRae collected Nos. 999 and 1,000 with a two-run double in the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees at then-Royals Stadium.