Royals' Dyson feeling confident again after big game against Chicago

Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson is adamant that he never lost confidence, even as he scuffled through an extended rehab assignment at Class AAA Omaha.

Dyson batted just .137 with two extra-base hits in 14 games while recovering from a high ankle sprain at Class AAA Omaha. But after going two for three with a homer in his first start back on Sunday, Dyson appears poised to pick up where he left off in the major leagues.

“I already knew when I got up here, I was just gonna get in the cage and get some work in with the hitting coaches,” Dyson said of working with hitting coaches George Brett and Pedro Grifol. “And we did a great job; (we) went through some drills to get me back on track and just hit down through the ball.”

Dyson’s ankle sprain, suffered on May 15, came at the worst possible time for the 28-year-old speedster. Dyson’s playing time had increased in early May as he stepped into the leadoff spot for Alex Gordon, and his bat and speed had provided a momentary spark for the offensive-challenged Royals. The timing of Dyson’s struggles at Omaha added to the Royals’ looming roster crunch.

“I didn’t hit worth a poop down there,” Dyson said.

Dyson’s replacement, David Lough, provided a lift in his absence. And with Dyson and right-fielder Jeff Francoeur out of options, the Royals had to figure out the odd-man out when Dyson returned.

The club finally made room by demoting second baseman Chris Getz to Omaha, and Royals manager Ned Yost said the Royals will mix and match with five outfielders on the 25-man roster. That means Francoeur can add a right-handed option, while Lough, Dyson and center fielder Lorenzo Cain have the versatility to play multiple positions.

“We’re covered (against) both left-handed and right-handed pitching,” Yost said. “But it’s beneficial for us to have our corner outfielders producing offense.”

Johnson in the mix

Elliot Johnson has always had the ability to steal bases, swiping 18 bags in 123 games for Tampa Bay last season. But Johnson probably wasn’t expected to lead the Royals’ in stolen bases after being the final piece in a blockbuster offseason trade that also brought James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City.

But that’s where Johnson is, a perfect 11 for 11 on stolen-base attempts this season. And those numbers should have an opportunity to increase as Johnson takes over primary duty at second base with Chris Getz’s recent demotion to Class AAA Omaha.

“I’m not gonna approach it any differently,” Johnson said of the added playing time. “I’m gonna be the same exact guy; expectations are going to be exactly the same for me, just show up and help the team win.”

Johnson, 29, is batting .239 with two homers and two doubles in 49 games this season. He hit .242 in a career-high 123 games last season for Tampa Bay.

“For the most part,” Johnson said, “I feel like I’ve showed up everyday and I’m helping the team with my glove one way or the other, even if I’m not getting any hits on that particular day.”

First time at the K

The arrival of season-long interleague play — created by Houston’s move to the American League — will provide a late June treat at Kauffman Stadium. The Atlanta Braves will play at Kauffman Stadium for the first time in history when the two teams begin a two-game set on Tuesday night. The Braves, 44-33, enter the series in first place in the NL East after going 5-5 in their last 10 games.

Minor update

• Center fielder Bubba Starling, the Royals’ first-round pick in 2011, entered Monday on a five-game hitting streak, piling up 10 hits in his last 19 at-bats. Starling, who struggled during the season’s first half, has raised his averaged to .222 with seven homers in 64 games for low-Class A Lexington.

• Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, one of the Royals’ top hitting prospects, entered Monday batting .150 (six for 38) since being promoted from Class A Wilmington to Class AA Northwest Arkansas.