Royals deal with aftershocks of Boston tragedy

Royals reliever Tim Collins, a Boston-area native, quickly ascertained Monday that none of his relatives were involved in the tragedy resulting from the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Catcher George Kottaras watched the scenes unfold on television of his former neighborhood and, like so many others, sought to understand the motivation of those who planted the bombs.

Nearly everyone in the traveling party recognized the hotel serving as command center for the response organizations — the Westin Copley Place. The Royals arrive there Wednesday night in preparation for a weekend series.

“It’s kind of crazy to see it on TV,” said Collins, who grew up in nearby Worcester. “I lived in Boston two offseasons ago. I’m really familiar with the area. To see all of those places that I know, it’s ... not realistic.”

The impact of the terror attack could be felt Tuesday at Turner Field, where the Royals opened a two-game interleague series against the Atlanta Braves.

Police put the area around the stadium on lockdown several hours prior to the game in order to guard against a similar incident. Barricades ringed the stadium.

“When I got here at 10 o’clock this morning,” manager Ned Yost said, “there was a lady who helped me with security. She said they’d called a lot of their security in early. They’ve beefed up security big time.”

The Royals will be the first team to visit Boston since the attack. The Red Sox opened a three-game series Tuesday in Cleveland and had already completed Monday’s 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay prior to the explosions.

The toll, to date, from those explosions are three dead and more than 170 wounded. Seventeen of the injured are in critical condition and many face or have undergone amputations.

Plans for the three-game series at Fenway Park, which opens Friday, remain unchanged following contact between Jeff Davenport, the Royals’ senior director of team travel, and MLB Security officials.

Davenport has also been in contact with representatives for the Westin Copley Place, which is located near the site of the explosions.

“There are no changes or restrictions to our travel plans at this time,” said Mike Swanson, the club’s vice president for communications and broadcasting.

Kottaras played for the Red Sox in 2008-09.

“I lived near Fenway and walked to work every day,” he said. “I’d always walk around those streets. It’s a great spot. To see that happen freaks you out a little bit.

“For some people to do something like that to others, it’s just a sad day. I still have friends out there. I know some were watching the race. You think about it, and it’s just crazy. It’s just sad for everybody.”

No-DH blues

The absence of the designated hitter for the two games in Atlanta forced Yost to again choose between sitting Billy Butler or Eric Hosmer.

Yost split the difference: Hosmer will play first base on Tuesday against right-hander Kris Medlen; Butler will play first on Wednesday against left-hander Mike Minor.

There was no consideration, Yost said, to putting Hosmer in right field in order to keep both players in the lineup, although Hosmer spent some time in right field in spring training to facilitate such a move.

Yost said Hosmer’s still-sore right quadriceps muscle was one reason — but not the only reason. Hosmer returned Sunday to the lineup after sitting the two previous games.

“With the quad thing,” Yost said, “I’m not pushing anything, but (playing Hosmer in the outfield) was designed in case Hos and Billy were tearing the cover off the ball, where you couldn’t keep them out of the lineup.

“Both guys are doing OK, but neither of them has gotten hot yet. The idea behind that was if both of those guys were hot, and we had to keep them both in the game.”

Altered rotation

Luis Mendoza is headed back to the Royals’ bullpen for a short tour because of a schedule that calls for three open dates in a span of eight days — Monday, Thursday and next Monday.

After Wade Davis pitches today, the Royals plan to use their front three — James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie — for the three games in Boston.

Davis will pitch again next Tuesday when the Royals open a three-game series in Detroit. Mendoza will return the following day to the rotation before Shields starts the series finale on April 25.

On the air

Fox Sports Kansas City isn’t covering Wednesday’s game, but you can still see it in Kansas City if you have access to MLB Network. The game starts at 11:10 a.m. Central time.

It’s one of two Royals games scheduled this season for a morning start in Kansas City. The other is Sept. 4 at Cleveland, which also starts at 11:10 a.m.

Troubling sign?

The Royals scored 17 runs in their last six games over 312/3innings against opposing starting pitchers from the Twins and Blue Jays. But they really only roughed up Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey (six runs in two innings).

Take away that Pelfrey start, and opposing starters compiled a 3.34 ERA on the just-completed homestand. (It was 4.83 with Pelfrey.)

Now the sobering news: The rotations for the Blue Jays (6.11) and Twins (5.88) had the worst ERAs in the majors prior to Tuesday’s games.

The three teams the Royals face on this eight-game road trip, through Monday, ranked second (Braves, 2.06), first (Red Sox, 1.99) and fifth (Tigers (2.89) among the 30 teams.

Minor awards

Right-hander Kyle Smith opened the season by getting selected as the pitcher of the week for April 8-14 in the Hi-A Carolina League after working 81/3scoreless innings in two starts for Wilmington.

Smith, 20, got no-decisions in both games despite registering 14 strikeouts while walking six and allowing five hits. The Royals selected Smith in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

The award represents a unique triple play for Smith. He was picked last year as the pitcher of the week at short-season Idaho Falls and Lo-A Kane County in his first week of play at both levels.

Looking back

It was 25 years ago Wednesday — April 17, 1988 — that George Brett became the 15th different player to hit a ball out of Tiger Stadium, which opened 50 years previously in 1938.

Brett’s blast came in the fourth inning against Detroit starter Jeff Robinson and traveled out of the stadium to right field. Brett hit another homer in the seventh inning against Robinson.

That still wasn’t enough for Mark Gubicza and the Royals, who lost 8-6.

Related stories from Kansas City Star