Royals notebook: Miguel Almonte could make first career start on Thursday

Rookie Miguel Almonte may make his first big-league start for the Royals against the Yankees on Thursday.
Rookie Miguel Almonte may make his first big-league start for the Royals against the Yankees on Thursday.

Rookie Miguel Almonte could draw a spot start Thursday at Yankee Stadium as the Royals patch together their starting rotation after an injury to right-hander Nathan Karns.

The Royals have not officially placed Karns on the disabled list, yet Royals manager Ned Yost said Tuesday that it remains unlikely that Karns will make his next start. For now, the club has a vacancy in its rotation on Thursday afternoon, the final game of a four-game series against the Yankees. Yost is leaning toward Almonte, he said.

Starter Ian Kennedy was an option to start on short rest Thursday after tossing just two innings in a loss on Sunday. But Yost said Tuesday that he was reluctant to push Kennedy coming off his recent hamstring injury.

Almonte, a 24-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, made his major-league debut in September 2015, making nine appearances out of the bullpen. Thursday would represent his first major-league start.

Once thought of as one of the top pitching prospects in the Royals’ system, Almonte struggled in 2016, posting a 5.92 ERA while splitting time between Class AAA Omaha and Class AA Northwest Arkansas. He finished with 72 strikeouts while issuing 46 walks in 76 innings.

He began the 2017 season at Northwest Arkansas, recording a 1.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 29 innings across seven appearances, including six starts.

The Royals will need a roster spot once left fielder Alex Gordon returns from paternity leave on Wednesday. If the Royals stick with the idea of Almonte starting, they would likely place Karns on the 10-day disabled list. Fellow rookie Jake Junis would have been an option to start on Friday if Kennedy could have returned on short rest on Thursday. But Junis, who threw 4  2/3 innings Sunday, would not be available Thursday after just three days of rest.

Karns experienced stiffness in his right forearm during his last start on Friday. An examination the next day revealed fluid near his elbow but no serious injury. The Royals do not believe he would require a long stay on the disabled list. He would be eligible to return May 30.

Orlando out four to six weeks at Omaha

If the Royals need an extra outfielder over the next month, it will not be Paulo Orlando, who has been diagnosed with a fractured shin.

After being demoted to Class AAA Omaha in April, Orlando fouled a baseball off his left shin on May 12. He was diagnosed with a bone contusion and waited for the swelling to subside. But once he did not see improvement, he underwent an x-ray, which detected the fracture.

Orlando is expected to miss four to six weeks, club officials said. He was batting .254 with a .314 on-base percentage and a .695 OPS.

Dozier begins rehab assignment

Top prospect Hunter Dozier began a rehab assignment Tuesday at Class A Wilmington. Dozier, 25, sustained a Grade 2 oblique strain during the final week of spring training. He was placed on the 60-day disabled list before the season, creating an extra spot on the 40-man roster.

Dozier can remain on his rehab assignment for 20 days, at which point he must be activated to the 40-man roster and either placed on the 25-man roster or optioned to the minor leagues.

Alburquerque clears waivers

The Royals announced Tuesday that reliever Al Alburquerque cleared waivers and was sent outright to Class AAA Omaha.

Alburquerque was designated for assignment on Sunday during a flurry of roster moves. He has the requisite service time to refuse the outright assignment.