On Saturday afternoon, a few hours before the Royals faced the Red Sox, manager Ned Yost admitted the obvious: If second baseman Omar Infante and outfielder Alex Rios continued to fritter away at-bats without success, they would lose playing time once Alex Gordon returned from the disabled list.
The scenario has loomed over the club since the team acquired super-utility player Ben Zobrist in July. Zobrist can handle either second base or right field. And the team could also utilize a platoon of Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in right.
In the three games since Yost discussed the status of his two veterans, both have produced. Rios entered Tuesday with seven hits in his last 12 at-bats. Infante tripled three times between Sunday and Monday, including Monday’s go-ahead, two-run knock against the Orioles.
“That’s why you keep going with guys,” Yost said before his team faced Baltimore on Tuesday. “They go through ups and downs. You just keep riding them until they get hot.”
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Of course, a three-game sample should not override the massive accumulation of evidence against both players. Each man has been among the least-productive hitters in the majors this season. Rios has only six extra-base hits this month. Infante can thank the Green Monster in Boston and the drawn-in outfield of the Orioles for his triples.
When October begins, Zobrist will play every day. But if Infante and Rios do maintain a hot streak through September, Yost will be forced to make tougher decisions in finalizing his postseason roster and starting lineup.
“That’s what you want,” Yost said. “You want everybody firing on all cylinders, playing well and hitting well. It’s important that that happens.”