A steely glare prevented Greg Holland from picking up his 41st save of the season. When Royals manager Ned Yost trudged from his dugout on Saturday night, preparing to insert his closer into yet another unintended save situation, he found Aaron Crow unwilling to relinquish the mound.
“I’ve never seen him so convicted in my life,” Yost said. “You get in a save situation, you do not want to put your closer in a position where one pitch ties the game. So I went out there to get Holly. And when I went out there, (Crow) was locked in on eye contact.”
Crow had already given up two runs. A five-run lead had shrunk to three. Already on this nine-game trip, he had given up four runs in three appearances. But he looked unwilling to force Holland into action, not with two outs in the inning and a hitter with a sickly batting average at the plate.
“‘Skip, I have got this guy,’” Yost recalled Crow saying. “‘I got him. I got him. I promise you I’ve got him. I can get him. I got him.’
“I just said, ‘OK, A.C. Go get him, then.’”
Crow completed the task. He pumped a 93-mph fastball down the middle, and Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia saw his batting average deflate to .173 with the out.
“I hated to do it, because Holly was hot and ready to come in the game and get a save,” Yost said. “But it’s really, really important that we get A.C. going.”
Perhaps the Royals saw signs of a turnaround on Sunday. Both Crow and Jason Frasor completed scoreless innings in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers.
The lone blemish of this trip was the extended mishaps of the middle-relief corps. Crow wasn’t alone in this regard. Frasor gave up a two-run homer in Minnesota. Francisley Bueno did the same in Colorado, and yielded two more runs on Friday night against Texas.
An optimist would point out all these mistakes occurred in low-leverage situations. The Royals were not cost any games. But as Yost aims to keep Holland and set-up man Wade Davis fresh, he needs improvement from his middle relievers.
Hosmer to get another X-ray
Eric Hosmer could receive clearance to resume swinging on Monday.
Hosmer, the Royals injured first baseman, will undergo another X-ray to determine the status of his right hand. He suffered a stress fracture after being hit by a pitch from Jon Lester on July 20. The fracture went undiagnosed until July 31.
An X-ray taken before the team departed on this 10-day trip showed evidence of healing, but not enough for Hosmer to pick up a bat. He has been limited to conditioning drills in the interim.
Yost is unsure how Hosmer will be utilized upon his return. There will be few opportunities for him to appear in rehabilitation games. He will likely require at least two weeks of swinging exercises before he can even be cleared for live competition.
In Hosmer’s absence, Billy Butler has flourished at first base. Plus, the acquisition of Josh Willingham further crowded the lineup. Yost admitted there were no easy solutions for the dilemma. But first, of course, Hosmer must be cleared to play. The latest test comes Monday.