Second baseman Omar Infante continued his sizzling road trip with two more hits Wednesday, including a solo home run, as the Royals knocked off the Tigers 2-1.
Infante dealt with a lengthy slump heading into this swing against Chicago and Detroit. He is now batting .440 with two homers in six games.
“Omar’s been swinging good for about a week,” manager Ned Yost said. “Big home run. Mixing in his hits. It was a big day for him, to hit the game winner like that.”
Infante also dealt a crushing blow to Justin Verlander on Monday night. His three-run homer accelerated Verlander’s departure from the mound.
Cain hits the wall
Lorenzo Cain crashed into the right-field wall on Wednesday trying to snag a foul bat off the bat of Miguel Cabrera on Wednesday. He grimaced afterward, in part due to the pain, and in part due to his frustration for coming up empty.
“It didn’t feel good,” Cain said. “I should have caught it, though. And then, all that padding, I hit the pole, right in the middle of my back.”
Cain does not think he will need Thursday off.
“I’ll probably be sore, but I’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Aoki rests for a day
Outfielder Nori Aoki sat on the bench for Wednesday’s game after leaving in the second inning the previous night. Aoki experienced a cramp in his left groin muscle, but insisted afterward he would be able to play the next day. His manager agreed.
“He’s fine,” Yost said before the game. “He’s ready to go.” Even so, Yost felt compelled to let Aoki rest a day.
Eight-man bullpen to end
The Royals have been carrying eight relief pitchers for an extended period of time now, but Yost expects that to change with the return of third baseman Danny Valencia. In his first rehab game on Tuesday night, Valencia went 2-for-4 with a home run for Class AAA Omaha. He should rejoin the big-league club this week.
And with that, the team will shift back to seven relievers. Right-handed rookie Michael Mariot is a candidate to lose his spot. The reason for the excess of relievers — most teams carry seven — is the lack of a swing man like Bruce Chen, who can pitch in extended duty in case of emergency.
So, to keep fresh arms such as Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, the team has utilized rookies such as Mariot, Donnie Joseph and Wilking Rodriguez to soak up innings.
“We don’t really have a long guy,” Yost said. “So we’ve got to piece together, if something happens.”
The dilemma there should also end soon. Chen struck out 11 and gave up two runs on three hits in his start for Omaha on Wednesday afternoon. He probably will be activated this week.