Royals to send Hunter Dozier on rehab assignment starting Monday

Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier will leave Minnesota on Sunday like the rest of the Royals, only he won’t be making the trip to Seattle to face the Mariners.

Dozier will begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Monday with Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and he’ll make a trip back to Kansas City for the birth of he and his wife’s second child later in the week. It’s still not certain when his rehab assignment will end.

Prior to Sunday’s game, Royals manager Ned Yost said the plan was for Dozier to play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while Northwest Arkansas is at home. Then he’ll return to Kansas City for the birth of his daughter on Thursday, and his rehab assignment could shift to Triple-A Omaha for the weekend.

“I’ll play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday down at Northwest, come back and have the baby on Thursday and then go from there,” Dozier said.

Dozier has been on the 10-day injured list since June 3 (retroactive to May 31) with what was initially called right thorax tightness and has been listed on the injury list as a right oblique strain.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed hitting slugger came into the weekend ranked among the American League leaders in batting average (fifth, .314), on-base percentage (sixth, .398) and slugging percentage (fifth, .589).

Dozier said his pregame work with the team has progressed to where he’s done everything he’d normally before a game including, playing catch, running, fielding drills and taking batting practice.

“I’ve done everything except a game,” Dozier said. “It feels good. It feels a lot better. It keeps getting better every day. I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now, just ready to get back.”

Left-handed lineup: Whit Merrifield will start at first base for the second time this season. The Royals start a stretch of four consecutive games against left-handed starting pitchers. Left-handed hitting Lucas Duda serves as the lone first baseman with Cheslor Cuthbert playing third base in place of Dozier. The Royals may shift Merrifield in order to keep him as well as right-handed hitters Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler all in the lineup.

One and done: Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Twins marked the 14th one-run loss of the season for the Royals, the third-most in the majors this season. The Royals have now led in 47 of their 70 games this season. However, they lead the majors in games lost after having held a lead (25).

Sunday’s lineup

1. Whit Merrifield, 1b

2. Adalberto Mondesi, ss

3. Alex Gordon, lf

4. Jorge Soler, dh

5. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3b

6. Jorge Bonifacio, rf

7. Nicky Lopez, 2b

8. Martin Maldonado, c

9. Billy Hamilton, cf

Pitcher: Jakob Junis (rh, 4-6, 5.35)

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.