Ball Star

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Lorenzo Cain flourishes in leadoff role for Royals

07/09/2014 9:33 AM

The subject of his place in the batting order causes Lorenzo Cain to perform an act of clubhouse Kabuki.

Batting leadoff? he says. No big deal. None at all.

“It’s just another spot,” Cain said after recording four hits and a walk in five plate appearances in Tuesday night’s Royals loss. “I just try to do whatever I can, try to get on base, regardless of wherever I’m at. Anything I can do to help the team win a ball game, that’s all that matters.”

This, of course, is something close to nonsense. Cain loves batting leadoff. Uncommon is the player who seeks fewer at-bats, the player who would prefer to bat eighth, as Cain did to start the season. With Nori Aoki on the disabled list, Cain has flourished at the top of the order.

But he believes his time there is limited. Manager Ned Yost hinted Aoki would resume his regular duties in right field when he comes back, which is likely after the All-Star break. It would be hard to justify giving him more at-bats than Cain.

Cain is hitting a career-best .322/.359/.450. He leads the Royals in all three categories of the slash categories: batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His .809 OPS is 85 points higher than his career average.

Even more encouraging for the Royals? Cain has not blanched when asked to shoulder more of the offense load. He has a .403 OBP as the leadoff hitter, with a .959 OPS.

Cain has maintained his aggressiveness. He will never be a player who walks much. But his quick hands have netted hit after hit these past two weeks.

“I’ve been swinging the bat well,” Cain said. “Just staying with my approach, middle away. The hits have been falling for me.”

FROM THE STAR

Francisley Bueno gave up two in the eighth, and a Royals comeback was for naught.

Raul Ibanez will get an extended look — until Aoki returns, Yost says. Also: The Royals signed Joe Saunders.

THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)

22.9 percent.

HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC

“Mae” by The Gaslight Anthem.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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