Raul Ibanez stays in lineup as Royals face Rays

In one swing, Raul Ibanez demonstrated his potential value to the Royals. On July 2, Ibanez lifted a slider over the elevated right-field wall at Target Field in Minnesota. His first home run served as a harbinger for the ability still found in Ibanez’s 42-year-old body.

A little less than a week later, the extra-base hit appears like more of a mirage. He entered Tuesday night’s game against the Rays without a hit in his subsequent 11 at-bats. He struck out four times during that stretch, including twice on Monday at Tropicana Field.

Yet manager Ned Yost still gave Ibanez a start on Tuesday. He intends to continue to utilize Ibanez until Nori Aoki (strained groin muscle) returns from his rehabilitation assignment. Yost does not expect Aoki back until after the All-Star break. During the interim, the Royals intend to see what Ibanez has left after being released by the Angeles in June.

“In all fairness to him, he wasn’t playing a lot,” Yost said. “And he’s just now getting back in the swing of things. You watch him in batting practice, and you can see. I mean, the guy hit 29 homers last year.”

He also batted .157 for Los Angeles. He has taken at-bats away from Jarrod Dyson, who is hitting .298 as a part-time player. Dyson usually replaces Ibanez for defense later in games.

Yost painted the current outfield configuration as a temporary solution. He spoke as if Aoki would reclaim his starting spot in right field upon his return.

“Once Nori comes back, he fits a valuable spot,” Yost said. “He’s a power bat off the bench. He can spell guys in the outfield, can play some first, and stuff.”

Here are the lineups as Jason Vargas (8-3, 3.32 ERA) faces Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 0.00 ERA):

ROYALS (46-42)

1. Lorenzo Cain, CF.

2. Eric Hosmer, 1B.

3. Salvador Perez, C.

4. Alex Gordon, LF.

5. Omar Infante, 2B.

6. Mike Moustakas, 3B.

7. Billy Butler, DH.

8. Raul Ibanez, RF.

9. Alcides Escobar, SS.

RAYS (41-51)

1. Desmond Jennings, CF.

2. Ben Zobrist, SS.

3. Brandon Guyer, LF.

4. Evan Longoria, 3B.

5. James Loney, 1B.

6. Logan Forsythe, 2B.

7. Sean Rodriguez, DH.

8. Ryan Hanigan, C.

9. Kevin Kiermaier, RF.

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