Royals’ Hunter Dozier talks triples, back tightness and being in a groove
After weather condensed a four-game series into three days, Royals manager Ned Yost tinkered with his lineup over the past couple of days. The adjustments will continue moving forward.
But Kelvin Gutierrez isn’t going anywhere. For now.
Gutierrez is hitting .333 (6 for 18) with a home run and seven RBIs since his call-up last week for his MLB debut. As the Royals concluded a series with the Rays on Thursday, Gutierrez was in the starting lineup for the sixth straight game.
His presence kept first baseman Ryan O’Hearn out of it, with Hunter Dozier sliding to first base to accommodate Gutierrez at third.
“Gutierrez, Dozier and (Adalberto Mondesi) are the three hottest hitters we got, so I’m not taking him out of the lineup,” Yost said. “Do I want to sit O’Hearn? Nah, not really. But I’m not taking (them) out of the lineup.”
In the meantime, the fluctuation will primarily come at designated hitter. In lieu of a day off, Whit Merrifield is serving as the designated hitter on Thursday. Dozier did the same for the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
That rotation will continue.
“Whit needed a DH day. Mondi’s gonna need a DH day. (Alex Gordon) down the road is gonna need a DH day, even though he had the second game off yesterday and the rest of the guys didn’t,” Yost said. “In order to move the DH around, I have to make adjustments. I’m going to keep my hottest hitters in there right now.”
Typically, the Royals could move Dozier around the diamond to keep O’Hearn in the lineup. He is capable of playing the corner infield spots as well as right field. But his nagging back injury prevents that.
“What fires his back up right now is running. That’s what tightens him up,” Yost said. “So I’m not going to put him in a position where he’s got to do a lot of extra running. That’s why I keep him at first. Ideally, I would love to DH him a couple more days, but some of these guys need it more than he does.”