For more than three weeks, the routine has been the same. Mike Minor shows up to the ballpark. He awaits his latest marching orders. Then he sweats through an afternoon workout or throwing session before settling in to watch another Royals game from his seat in the dugout.
At some point, Minor, a 28-year-old left-hander, will head back out on a rehab assignment and rebuild his stamina. At some point, he could offer help to the Royals in the form of another starter or bullpen piece. For now, though, even Minor does not know when that will be.
“They don’t tell me anything,” said Minor, sitting in the clubhouse at Citi Field on Wednesday. “I have to ask them. Whenever I ask them, it’s always like: ‘Let’s just see how you feel tomorrow.’ ”
The Royals are content to be cautious with Minor, who is returning from season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. The also have reasons to be patient, including a two-year investment in Minor and a starting rotation that has stabilized to a degree in the last week.
For now, Minor is here, traveling with the Royals and rehabbing under the supervision of the club’s trainers.
“I couldn’t tell you when I’m going to go back on a rehab assignment, or how many days I’m going to have to throw, or how many starts I need,” Minor said. “Because they won’t even tell me.”
Minor has not pitched in the big leagues since 2014. His 2015 season ended after undergoing shoulder surgery in May. The injury derailed a once-promising career in Atlanta. In 2013, Minor recorded a 3.21 ERA in 204 2/3 innings. By last offseason, he was granted free-agency.
Minor signed a two-year deal with the Royals during the opening weeks of spring training, hoping the environment in Kansas City would be conducive to his rehab. He spent most of April in extended spring training before setting out on a rehab assignment on May 10.
He made two starts at Class AA Northwest Arkansas before transitioning to Class AAA Omaha. He allowed 15 runs in three starts for Omaha before reporting an ongoing case of fatigue in his left shoulder.
“I didn’t feel like I could (pitch in the big leagues) with the way I was feeling,” Minor said. “It felt like every time I got to the third or fourth inning, I was still feeling fatigued, even though some games I went to the fifth. It wasn’t really the innings; it was more like the pitch count.
“Once I got up to 50 or 60 pitches, I started feeling really tired and fatigued. So when I told them that, they were like, ‘OK, this isn’t going to work.’ ”
Minor returned to Kansas City in late May and has stayed with the Royals for all of June. He has continued to throw side sessions after working through a case of rotator cuff inflammation. But a public timetable for his return remains elusive. For now, the Royals want Minor focused on the day-to-day aspects of his rehab.
“I just come in every day,” Minor said, “and they tell me where we’re at.”
On Wednesday, Minor said he would be comfortable with a bullpen role if that’s where he is needed. The Royals’ rotation, once a questionable mix of moving parts, has solidified in recent weeks with the re-emergence of Danny Duffy and the stabilization of Yordano Ventura. Edinson Volquez and Ian Kennedy remain locked into roles, while Chris Young is currently serving as the fifth starter. The Royals also have Kris Medlen nearing a possible return after a rehab assignment at Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
For now, Minor said, he, too, must exercise patience.
“It’s just a matter of building up stamina and going on a rehab assignment again,” Minor said.