The problem is self-created, a result of the Royals’ refusal to add an additional hitter to replace injured first baseman Eric Hosmer on their active roster.
So manager Ned Yost has devised a creative solution to bolster his four-man bench, enlisting pitchers James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie as potential pinch hitters for a three-game interleague series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“If I get in a situation where I don’t want to burn a player, Shields can hit,” Yost said. “If I get in a situation where I don’t want to burn a player, Guthrie can bunt.”
The reluctance of the Royals to replace Hosmer with another hitter is twofold: Yost indicated the Royals prefer a right-handed-hitting veteran, and their minor-league system has unearthed few candidates. Plus, Yost does not want to cut ties with any of the relievers in the eight-man bullpen.
So the Royals continue to hold the line, waiting for the right hitter to emerge via a waiver claim or a trade this month. Hosmer may miss up to six weeks. The team has declined to recall players such as catcher Francisco Peña and outfielders Justin Maxwell and Carlos Peguero.
In the interim, Yost found himself talking up the hitting abilities of his pitchers.
“Shields is a .400 hitter this year,” he said. “In case you haven’t noticed.”
This is accurate. Shields does have two hits, including a double, in five at-bats. When a reporter reminded Yost that Shields was, in fact, still a pitcher with little training at the plate, Yost brushed aside the sentiment.
“So? He swings the bat all right,” Yost said. “We’ll incorporate him in the game.”
In Shields’ career, he has one at-bat as a pinch hitter, when his Rays played the Pirates on June 28, 2008. Shields reached on an error.
For the last two weeks, as the Royals prepared to face Arizona and Colorado this month, the pitchers have been taking batting practice. Shields is an eager, avid participant.
Before this series began, Yost approached Shields. He informed him about the possibility of taking an at-bat. Shields indicated he was able.
“We’re short a man, you know?” Shields said. “I’ve got to be ready just in case the situation comes around. I guess if there’s no outs, nobody on, something like that, they don’t want to burn somebody in a clutch situation.”
Gordon reaches milestone
With an opposite-field single in the fifth inning, outfielder Alex Gordon surpassed quadruple digits in his career hit total.
He became the 10th player in franchise history to reach 1,000 hits.
Fans are tuning in
The playoff-chasing Royals are a ratings winner.
The Royals broadcasts on Fox Sports Kansas City are averaging a 5.93 household rating in prime time since March 31.
That’s the best rating in the Kansas City market over that time. It is 13 percent higher than second-ranked KCTV (Channel 5) programming during the same stretch, according to Fox, which used data provided by Nielsen.
Overall, the Royals are averaging a 5.7 on Fox Sports Kansas City, including weekend and afternoon games, which ranks eighth in baseball.
At this pace, the Royals would have their second-best ratings season on Fox Sports Kansas City, behind 2013.
Hayes heads to Omaha
Backup catcher Brett Hayes has accepted an outright assignment to Class AAA Omaha. The Royals designated Hayes for assignment when they acquired Erik Kratz from Toronto on July 28.
Hayes hit .135 in 27 games this season.
| The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this report.