ROYALS NOTEBOOK

Royals’ doubles production is uncharacteristically low this season

Updated: 2013-08-22T13:34:31Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

A home-run outage is one thing. The Royals have never been a long-ball franchise — witness the team’s season dinger standard: Steve Balboni’s 36 in 1985.

But in most years, and especially the last few, the Royals have been two-bag bullies. The team annually ranks near the top of baseball in doubles, and two years ago they ran out the first starting outfield with at least 40 doubles each in a season.

But entering Wednesday’s game with Chicago, the Royals’ 198 doubles ranked 13th among 15 American League teams.

“They’re down a little bit,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of the doubles production. “Offensively, we haven’t had a year we anticipated having. We felt this was a really good offensive team, a doubles team, a team that was athletic, that could run and create scoring opportunities for us.

“But we just, for some reason, all year long, we haven’t hit the stride we anticipated hitting coming out spring training.”

Early on, the Royals weren’t getting production from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Both have heated up, especially Hosmer, who leads the team with 14 home runs and 25 doubles.

The doubles numbers for Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have declined this season. Both average about 40. Butler has 24 two-base hits and Gordon 20.

Butler is on a pace for 31, and Gordon, who got off to a torrid start and made the All-Star team, for 27. Both have reached 51 in their careers.

For Butler, it may be a matter of gaining more respect by pitchers the longer he plays. He’s sure to set a career best in walks and is near a career best in on-base percentage.

“I’m getting less pitches to hit, so less pitches to hit, less doubles, less power numbers,” Butler said. “In years past I was getting more pitches and chances to drive balls. If I miss it now, I’m not getting another one of those.”

Parking-lot friends

Nine members of the Royals made their way across the Truman Sports Complex parking lot and watched part of Chiefs practice on Wednesday. The team gave Chiefs coach Andy Reid a Royals jersey. Yost got a Chiefs helmet.

Rotation switch

The Royals have changed the rotation order for the Nationals series. Originally, Wade Davis was going in Friday’s opener, Bruce Chen on Saturday. They’ll switch with Chen opening the series against Washington schedule starter Gio Gonzalez.

Why?

Yost said he wanted a left-hander after James Shields, who gets Thursday’s start against the White Sox. He didn’t elaborate.

Braves claim Johnson

Elliot Johnson appears to be postseason bound.

Not with the Royals, who released the light-hitting infielder last week, but with the Braves, who claimed him off waivers Wednesday.

Johnson is hitting .179 and in the throes of a zero-for-31 slump when he was released. He came to Kansas City from the Rays along with James Shields and Wade Davis in the Wil Myers trade.

Atlanta was looking for help in the infield after Dan Uggla had eye surgery and Tyler Pastornicky suffered a season-ending knee injury that required surgery.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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