May 28, 2014

Bruce Chen’s future role with Royals is still undefined

The left-hander is on the disabled list with a back ailment and seemed destined to be in the bullpen when he returned. But the team may need his services in the rotation.

The Royals have kept quiet about Bruce Chen’s designated role upon his return from the disabled list. But they will continue to rehabilitate him on track to be a starter.

“We’ll stretch him out,” manager Ned Yost said before the team’s ugly 9-3 loss to Houston on Wednesday. “We’ll worry about it when we get there.”

About a week ago, Chen’s next move looked obvious. He could slot into the bullpen, where he would serve as another left-handed option to complement struggling southpaw Tim Collins.

But the past few days have clouded the picture somewhat. On Monday, Yordano Ventura injured his elbow. He left the game due to a valgus extension overload, an injury the team insists is minor. His replacement for Saturday’s has not yet been decided upon, though both Aaron Brooks and Sugar Ray Marimon appear to be the prime candidates from Class AAA Omaha.

Ventura will miss at least one start. If he experiences a setback in the interim, the team intends to be cautious.

Danny Duffy, Chen’s replacement in the rotation, had initially shined in the role. But he has given up 11 runs in his last two starts, including six on Wednesday. He suffered from a case of dead arm, which left his fastball velocity sapped against the Astros.

Infante to rest

The artificial playing surface at Rogers Centre in Toronto is famously unkind to players. So second baseman Omar Infante is expected to only play in two of the four games. He just returned on Monday from 20 days off due to inflammation in his lower back.

“That turf is tough on your back,” Yost said.

Yost will also be watchful with outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who has dealt with a series of nettlesome leg injuries. Yost expects Jarrod Dyson to start at least one game in Cain’s place in Canada.

Valencia update

Third baseman Danny Valencia (sprained right hand) has missed four games in a row. He will test the pain threshold in his hand before Thursday’s game in Toronto. Yost hopes he returns to the lineup during that series.

Valencia was unable to swing a bat on Monday. The pain began to subside recently, Yost said.

“He felt better yesterday,” he said. “I imagine he felt better today.”

Hayes breaks slump

The silver linings on Wednesday were hard to find. But here’s one: Backup catcher Brett Hayes snapped a string of 27 at-bats without a hit when he singled in the fifth inning. In his next at-bat, he launched a solo home run.

Of course, the bad news: That homer means he now has as many as Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, two of the team’s supposed power hitters.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to Follow him at

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