Opinion

Ask Andy: Who are the Royals’ potential September call-ups?

Royals manager Ned Yost (3) gives Paulo Orlando a hug after his ninth-inning grand slam for a 9-5 win lifted KC over the Tampa Bay Rays on July 7 at Kauffman Stadium. Star sportswriter Andy McCullough thinks Orlando would be among the first of the Royals’ September call-ups.
Royals manager Ned Yost (3) gives Paulo Orlando a hug after his ninth-inning grand slam for a 9-5 win lifted KC over the Tampa Bay Rays on July 7 at Kauffman Stadium. Star sportswriter Andy McCullough thinks Orlando would be among the first of the Royals’ September call-ups. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

The dog days of August are here, and the Royals limped home on Thursday evening after an unsatisfactory end to a 10-game road trip. The team went 4-6, including an eventful four-game set with Toronto.

The trade deadline has passed. The Royals roster appears set for the near-future. The playoffs appear inevitable. So what is there to discuss about the team? There’s always something. Let’s get to it.

In these situations, always look to the 40-man roster. The 40-man is the key. If a player in on the 40-man, he has a better chance than someone who isn’t. But the best Royals minor-leaguers aren’t on the 40-man, which adds to the intrigue.

Here is one you can bank on: Paulo Orlando will join the club on Sept. 1. And that’s only if he’s not already back up.

Kansas City Royals recently acquired utility player Ben Zobrist talks about his ties to Kansas City and Calvary Bible College near Belton, Mo. Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star

If Terrance Gore is healthy, he’ll almost certainly get another shot to steal some bases, eat some Skittles and be called "G. Baby" by his teammates. Gore now is nursing an ankle injury. He hasn’t played for Class AA Northwest Arkansas since July 16.

After that, though, you are looking at guys who needed to be added to the roster. The organization has talked a lot about using Miguel Almonte, one of their top pitching prospects, as a reliever that month. Kyle Zimmer could also fill a similar role. He dominated as a reliever for the Naturals, and has begun starting games.

On the offensive side, Raul A. Mondesi could work as a backup infielder and pinch-runner. Ned Yost praised Orlando Calixte often this past spring. Calixte is on the roster. Brett Eibner and Jose Martinez are not, but they have hit well for Class AAA Omaha. Lane Adams got a call-up as a late-game defender last year, and he should be a candidate again. The Royals may reward Bubba Starling for his encouraging campaign with a few weeks in the majors.

At some point, the cost becomes sunk. There were a lot of questions like this, as Alex Rios has hit another cold spell after a brief hot streak. Heading into Thursday’s games, Rios had a .594 OPS. Among the 247 players with at least 240 plate appearances (Rios had 241), he ranked 230th.

That is unplayable for a corner outfielder. The only argument the Royals could make in his defense is his potential to heat up. It appears he will not. Kansas City owes it to itself to see if this $11 million investment returns anything. At this point, with less than two months in the regular season, the Royals still have a few weeks to run Rios out there in hopes he’ll catch fire. The club’s lead in the American League Central is sizable enough they can afford it.

Rios did have a couple nice weeks in July. But he has turned frigid again. As a defender, he is definitely worse than Paulo Orlando and almost certainly worse than Jarrod Dyson.

So what happens? The most likely scenario is when Alex Gordon returns from the disabled list, Ben Zobrist becomes the regular right fielder. Rios will probably spend most of September and October on the bench, unless he shows more signs of life in the next few weeks.

The timetable hasn’t changed. The Royals still hope Alex Gordon can return by the end of August, early September. Gordon took indoor batting practice this week, and he hopes to take outdoor B.P. with his teammates this weekend at Kauffman Stadium. He has been doing agility drills for a while now.

Kris Medlen is not hurt, per se, but he is just coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. That is a major surgery, with major consequences, and the Royals are being cautious with him right now. It is unlikely Medlen will start a game for Kansas City this season. But he’ll contribute as a long reliever, and re-acclimate himself to the rigors of big-league competition.

Medlen is under contract for 2016. He’s expected to be a full-time member of the starting rotation. That could change over the winter, but that’s the current plan for him, at least the one I’ve heard from several folks in the organization.

It would take a lot for Kansas City to require an emergency arm from the minors. The bullpen already continues two options for spot starts in Chris Young and Kris Medlen. But Miguel Almonte, who we mentioned earlier as a likely September call-up, would probably be the best bet.

The Royals did give up a lot to acquire Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. But they managed to hang onto both Almonte and Kyle Zimmer, who some team officials still feel is their best arm in the organization. And that includes the big-league club.

Yes. But I’m not complaining.

Maybe they’re thinking of "Flanagan," that rookie Scott Downs was always talking about.

I would make my first name Rick. Rick McCullough is a great name.

You know, I’m almost positive I never owned "So Long, Astoria" when I was in high school. Pretty sure I downloaded a torrent of it when I was in college. But very few records – maybe only "Keep It Together," "Stay What You Are," "Through Being Cool," and "If You’re Feeling Sinister," – remind me so acutely of being in high school. I don’t know why that is.

Good talk, Johnny. See you out there.

My take on the second season of "True Detective" is not unique. It may be the worst season of television I’ve ever endured – I quit on "Entourage" early in Season 4 and likewise with "The O.C." – and I can’t even garner up the enthusiasm to hate-watch it. I still haven’t seen the penultimate episode. Maybe at some point I will, but, good grief, it’s terrible.

Again, these are not earth-shattering critiques, but: Vince Vaughn appears to a method actor attempting to portray a tree. I’m not sure why he cares so much about Stan. His scenes with Kelly Reilly, who was great in "Flight," should be held up as cautionary tales in acting school. I still am not sure who Stan is. Colin Farrell has been fun, but the subplot with his family bores me and doesn’t particularly make sense. The show needs more Woody Harrelson.

Also: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BIRD GUY? WHO WAS THE GUY IN THE BIRD MASK?

Another thing that doesn’t make sense is who is Stan.

There is no reason for Tim Riggins’ character to exist. I heard he died in the most recent episode. I wish he had died in the writer’s room, but Nic Pizzolatto decided to keep Tim Riggins alive to pay for our sins.

Or something.

Look: Writing is hard. I struggle with it every day. I have so much sympathy for one man trying to turn around something as massive as a full season of television basically on his own. But, man, this thing is a dumpster fire of garbled, incoherent dialogue, one-liners that wouldn’t make Norm MacDonald’s act at a roast and various interstitial shots of Los Angeles traffic.

TL:DR: The new season of "True Detective" stinks, also, but writing isn’t easy.

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

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