Pitcher Bruce Chen will get start Sunday in place of Jason Vargas in the Royals’ final game of a four-game series against Detroit. Vargas is on the disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy on Wednesday.
Chen made four starts this season before a back injury forced him out for two months. His last start was on April 24 at Cleveland.
Since his return, Chenhas made two relief appearances, the first on June 28 against the Angels. Chen went in for Yordano Ventura after a rain delay stopped play for nearly four hours and gave up four runs in five innings and struck out eight in a 6-0 loss.
Chen’s last appearance was a scoreless eighth inning in a 4-1 loss July 6 at Cleveland.
“I’m going to do everything I can,” Chen said on Saturday. “If they need me to go out and throw 100 pitches, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The idea that Chen might be rusty for his first start since his injury wasn’t well received by manager Ned Yost.
“You make it sound like he hasn’t pitched in nine years,” Yost said before Saturday’s game against division-leading Detroit. “He’ll be fine. He’s ready to go.”
Chen’s start will come against Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander. In his last outing against the Royals on June 16, Verlander gave up seven runs and 12 hits as the Royals defeated the Tigers 11-8 in Detroit.
Still, Chen is familiar enough with the Tigers to know that those kinds of games don’t come easily against the division leaders.
“Well, since it’s the Tigers, any guy that they throw out there is going to be good,” Chen said. “My job is to do a good enough job for us to win. If I do my part, I think we have a real good chance of winning.”
Ventura available Sunday
If Chen struggles in his spot start, Yost will have a solid backup plan. Yost confirmed that rookie starter Yordano Ventura will head to the bullpen on Sunday and be available for a lengthy relief appearance.
“We could bring Ventura out of the bullpen if we need him,” Yost said. “It’s his fourth day (since his last start). He could give us three or four innings.”
Ventura threw 104 pitches in five innings in a no-decision against Tampa Bay on Wednesday. He allowed four runs while recording five strikeouts and four walks.
Tigers tough at the K
Saturday night marked the sixth consecutive win for the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. They have yet to lose in Kansas City this season after a 5-1 victory Saturday.
Miguel Cabrera has been a big part of that for the Tigers. In Thursday night’s 16-4 thrashing of the Royals, Cabrera drove in three runs for the Tigers. Since 2008, Cabrera was hitting .344 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs at Kauffman Stadium before he went zero for four Saturday.
Still, Yost said the pitching wasn’t entirely to blame Friday.
“Danny (Duffy) showed how to beat them last night, Yost said Saturday. “We didn’t score enough runs.
“The pitching, like Danny did last night, has to keep us in the game, give us an opportunity to score. We just couldn’t capitalize on it. It’s a whole team that has to come together, and so much has to go right in order to win a baseball game.
“Last night it was a little skewed because there were four or five times where we hit the ball pretty darn good, you know, we couldn’t catch a break. They made some great plays.”
Saturday’s 5-1 loss put the Royals 71/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central.
Hosmer hit streak
First baseman Eric Hosmer didn’t waste much time extending his hitting streak.
In his first at-bat Saturday, Hosmer hit a single to left, marking a career best 12th straight game with a hit. It was the only hit he got in four at-bats.
Before the game, Yost said the streak is something he has been waiting to see from Hosmer, and expects it to continue.
“I do,” Yost said. “Once he gets his timing down and feels good, he’s going to go on a nice run, we’ve been saying that all along and he’s got it together now.”
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