After a workout on Friday at Progressive Field, Royals outfielder Nori Aoki sounded encouraged about the status of his injured groin muscle.
But he remains unsure about when he can undertake a rehabilitation assignment, the final step in his return to the major-league roster.
Aoki tested his legs while running to catch fly balls a couple of hours before his teammates opened a three-game series with the Indians. Aoki has been steadily increasing his workload as he tries to recover.
“It’s still day to day,” Aoki said Friday through his interpreter, Kosuke Inaji.
“We haven’t really determined when (the rehab assignment starts). But today, just being able to not feel anything today, mentally, it’s a big step for me."
Aoki is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday. The team does not expect him to play during the subsequent three games against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Asked if Aoki would return before the All-Star break, both general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost had the same answer: “I don’t know.”
Yost relied on his default response on injuries when he indicated, “we’re kind of going day to day with it.”
Moore offered a more elaborate response.
“I think it could happen any day,” Moore said. “But when you’re dealing with leg injuries, they’re unpredictable. He still has a few more progressions (of rehab) that he has to go through before we send him out.”
When Aoki returns, the Royals face a roster crunch. The addition of Raul Ibanez gives the team five outfielders. Meanwhile, Aoki is not rushing to come back too soon.
“I don’t want to come back and re-injure it again, and not be able to contribute to the team,” he said. “I just want to be able to come back 100 percent.”
Ibanez may DH soon
With Billy Butler stuck in a slump, Yost is contemplating starting Ibanez at designated hitter Sunday.
Yost already plans to start Jarrod Dyson in the outfield for the final two games of this series.
The decision at DH will be made over the coming days. After surging for most of June, Butler entered Friday’s game batting .234 with a .549 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his previous 12 games.
“Let’s see how he does the next day or two,” Yost said.
No TV Saturday
The Royals game Saturday night in Cleveland will not be available on television, due to Fox’s Saturday blackout provisions.
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