The Royals are poised to exercise patience as outfielder Jorge Soler continues a rehab assignment at Class AAA Omaha.
Soler, a 25-year-old outfielder, is not expected to be activated Friday when the club opens a 10-game homestand against the Minnesota Twins, general manager Dayton Moore said.
“His rehab assignment runs through May 10,” Moore told The Star on Thursday. “And at this point in time, we fully expect to utilize that period of time for him to get some at-bats and get caught up.”
Soler began a minor-league rehab assignment last Friday, 26 days after sustaining a Grade 1 oblique strain during the final week of spring training. Yet after playing in five games for Class AAA Omaha before a scheduled day off on Wednesday, his debut in Kansas City is not imminent. The Royals will remain cautious with Soler as he regains his timing at the plate and tests his oblique in a less stressful environment. There is no public timetable for his return, Moore said, but the club would like to see Soler accumulate additional at-bats and reps in the outfield.
“He needs to play a lot more in the field, and obviously he was out toward the end of spring training,” Moore said. “But it was still close to a month before he was back into a game.”
Acquired in a December trade that sent closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs, Soler was expected to begin the season as the Royals’ starting right fielder. But a slow start during spring training led to additional at-bats in a handful of spring minor-league games. It was in one of those games that Soler strained an oblique muscle.
After close to a month of rehab, he returned to games for Omaha last week. He entered Thursday 4 for 17 with two homers in five games. He’s also struck out five times while drawing two walks.
The Royals will enter the homestand with the lowest-scoring offense in baseball, averaging just 2.57 runs per game. They will also face an intriguing roster decision when Soler returns. Rookie outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is batting .294 (five for 17) with a homer and two RBIs since making his major-league debut last Friday. He replaced a struggling Paulo Orlando in right field. Orlando is 1 for 7 with three walks since returning to Omaha.
The Royals, at the moment, are also carrying eight relievers in their bullpen, in addition to a bench that features infielders Cheslor Cuthbert and Christian Colon. Both Cuthbert and Colon remain out of options, meaning they must be placed on waivers and exposed to other teams if they are removed from the 25-man roster.
For now, the Royals appear content to be patient with Soler, who battled through a rash of injuries during three seasons with the Cubs.
“We just got to make sure he’s healthy and gets some at-bats, because the last thing you want to do is get back to the major leagues a little too soon and then you’re trying to do too much,” Moore said. “Obviously, the level of competition increases, the work load increases, and then you have another setback, and now you’re talking about (not coming back until) after the All-Star break.
“We’ve learned through experience that these things are better off going slower for a number of reasons.”