Alex Rios boarded a flight in Omaha around 7 a.m. on Friday to meet the Kansas City Royals at Wrigley Field. After playing four games on a Class AAA rehabilitation assignment, Rios will be activated for Saturday’s game against the Cubs. He had shown enough confidence in his once-broken left hand to use it as a brake when he crashed into a wall for a catch on Thursday.
“I had no choice,” Rios said. “It got me pretty good. But it didn’t get any worse. The soreness is still the same.”
Rios notched three hits in 17 at-bats in Omaha. He has not played since April 13, when a misplaced fastball from Twins reliever J.R. Graham collided with his hand.
Manager Ned Yost declined to discuss how the Royals will add Rios to the active roster. The team is expected to option outfielder Paulo Orlando to Omaha. Orlando was in the lineup for Friday’s game against Chicago. He has out-played fellow reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson since Rios suffered his injury.
But Dyson is out of minor-league options. He would likely be claimed on waivers if the Royals designated him for assignment. The most likely scenario involves Orlando departing to maintain the organization’s depth.
In a similar vein, manager Ned Yost indicated catcher Erik Kratz would remain on a rehabilitation assignment of his own in Omaha. Kratz has played in seven games for the Storm Chasers. He will stay there to get at-bats as the club decides whether to stick with Kratz or Drew Butera as Salvador Perez’s backup.
“It’s a benefit to (Kratz) to get at-bats,” Yost said. “He can come up here and sit, or he can get at-bats down there, which he hasn’t all spring.”
Rios hit .321 in his seven games as a Royal, but the club cannot consider him a panacea for their recent offensive skid. He admitted he sometimes feels pain in his hand when he makes contact.
“On some occasions, there’s going to be discomfort,” Rios said. “But I think that’s an issue that I’m going to have to deal with. Overall I was able to swing, I would say, at 100 percent. So I think we are achieved our goal.”
Rios will also have to manage some soreness in his right thumb, which is a condition he dealt with for much of 2014. He expects both issues to be manageable.
“You come here to compete,” Rios said. “You want to play. You want to be out there playing and enjoying the things that the team is doing. It is exciting. And I’m looking forward to it.”