Jarrod Dyson was standing in the Royals’ clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, nearly 30 minutes after the Royals’ 7-6 victory at Kauffman Stadium. Hours earlier, he had recorded his first major-league at-bats in more than a month, and after two hits, including a solo homer to right field, the theory was posited like this:
Maybe Dyson, stuck in an extended slump during a lengthy rehab assignment at Class AAA Omaha, was just saving himself for his return to Kansas City.
“Saving my hits?” Dyson said. “Because I wasn’t hitting worth a poop down there?”
Maybe so. But Dyson is adamant that he never lost confidence, even as he scuffled through his days in Omaha. He batted just .137 with two extra-base hits in 14 games while recovering from a high-ankle sprain, a stretch that appeared to undermine a breakout stretch in early May. But perhaps Dyson’s performance on Sunday confirmed what he envisioned when he was recalled from Omaha during the White Sox series. If he could just get back to Kansas City and work with hitting coaches George Brett and Pedro Grifol, maybe he could get his stroke back to where it was before.
“I already knew when I got up here, I was just gonna get in the cage and get some work in with the hitting coaches,” Dyson said. “And we did a great job; (we) went through some drills to get me back on track and just hit down through the ball.”
Dyson’s ankle sprain, suffered while attempting to make a play at the wall on May 15, came at the worst possible time for the 28-year-old speedster. His playing time had increased in early May as he stepped into the leadoff spot for Alex Gordon, and his bat and speed had provided a momentary spark for the offensive-challenged Royals. In his five starts before his ankle injury, Dyson had five hits, including two doubles and a homer, raising his season average to .268.
But after a few weeks of nursing the injury, Dyson couldn’t get back on track when he headed to Omaha.
“You wanna put together good at-bats down there, too,” Dyson said of his rehab assignment. “Those guys down there have something to play for, and you don’t want to mess the team up. But unfortunately, I couldn’t help them at all with my stick.”
The struggles also added some intrigue to the Royals’ looming roster crunch in the outfield. David Lough, Dyson’s replacement, provided a spark in his absence. And with Dyson and right-fielder Jeff Francoeur out of options, the Royals had to figure out the odd-man out when Dyson returned.
The club finally made room by demoting second baseman Chris Getz to Omaha, and that left five outfielders on the Royals’ 25-man roster. In short, the Royals wanted Lough on the big-league club, and they weren’t ready to part with an ineffective Francoeur.
For now, Royals manager Ned Yost will try to find ways to incorporate all five outfielders into the lineup. Francoeur has seen his playing time dip in June, but he does provide a second right-handed option after center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
Lough and Dyson both have the ability to play multiple positions, while Yost has preferred to give Cain consistent days off after leg issues marred his 2012 season.
“It gives us versatility now with five outfielders; we can mix and match,” Yost said. “We’re covered (against) both left-handed and right-handed pitching. But it’s beneficial for us to have our corner outfielders producing offense. It’s just huge. And then you mix in what Dyson can do in center.”
For now, Dyson says, he just wants to pick up where he left off before his injury.
“I try not to worry about numbers that much,” Dyson said. “(I just want to) put together some great at-bats and get on base by any means necessary.”