Don’t expect third baseman Mike Moustakas or first baseman Eric Hosmer in Sunday’s lineup as the Royals wrap up a three-game series with the Houston Astros.
Manager Ned Yost decided a game against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, a southpaw who leads the American League with a 2.12 ERA and is tied for first with 12 wins, was the perfect time to get his young left-handed-hitting corner infielders a day’s rest.
“Everybody needs a day here or there,” said center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who sat out Saturday’s game. “It helps everybody out. It’s a game we play every single day, so getting a day helps your body regroup.”
Yost doesn’t believe fatigue has set in with any of his players, but he wants to guard against it given the recent spate of games with a heat index north of 100.
“We’ve been doing a good job of really kind of conserving their energy by staying away from (batting practice) on hot days,” Yost said. “That way they don’t have to go out for an hour in it.”
It also saves the bullpen from shagging fly balls in the heat during that time.
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales will play first base Sunday, with Cheslor Cuthbert filling in at third.
Yost also said catcher Salvador Perez will replace Morales at DH.
“He had a day (off Friday), but with this long stretch in the heat we’ve got to find ways to try to keep guys fresh — as fresh as we can,” Yost said.
The Royals, who opened a packed post-All-Star schedule with a split doubleheader and 13-inning game in Chicago, plus a make-up game Thursday at St. Louis, are hoping the upcoming road trip through Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit will provide a little relief from the Kansas City swelter.
“It’s definitely been a grind already up to this point,” Cain said. “The heat is definitely not helping anybody out right now.”
Unlike last season, when the Royals were fighting an uphill battle against Detroit in the AL Central and trying to stay afloat in the wild-card race, leading the division by a relatively comfortable margin has some perks.
“We’re in the lead right now,” Cain said. “Last year, we spent the whole time chasing, but you can’t give in. We’ve got to compete and try to win each and every night … but we’re in an easier position to get guys rest. We still need to put out a great lineup every night.”
Expectations for Ventura
Yost has simple expectations Sunday for Yordano Ventura’s first start since his brief demotion to Class AAA Omaha.
“Just go out and pitch his game,” Yost said. “Execute.”
Ventura was optioned to Omaha on Tuesday when Jason Vargas was reinstated from the disabled list, but was recalled a day later when Vargas was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Asked how Ventura handled his brief demotion, Yost said. “Fine. He understood.”
Royals ace Edinson Volquez, whose locker is next to Ventura’s, was impressed with the maturity Ventura showed despite the situation.
Ventura, is 4-7 with a 5.19 ERA. He is 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA since May 31, including a 15-day stint on the disabled list for ulnar neuritis.
“It’s not a pivotal start,” Yost said. “Every start’s pivotal for everybody. Not just him.”
Guthrie’s job safe
Yost made it clear before Saturday’s game that veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie’s spot in the rotation is safe.
“He gets us through games,” Yost said. “He keeps us in games. That’s what he does. He’s durable. He’s a veteran. He knows how to make pitches. Does he give up a lot of hits? Yeah, but he always finds a way to make a pitch to limit the damage for the most part.”
Guthrie is 7-6 with 5.35 ERA this season, including a loss Friday in the opening game of the Astros series.
Since arriving via trade in July 2012, the Royals are 60-38 in Guthrie’s starts.