Alcides Escobar is back where he’s always wanted to be — batting second in the Royals’ lineup.
“I know I can be a No. 2 hitter,” Escobar said. “I’ve done it the last two years — all last year and most of this year. That’s where I want to be.”
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Escobar was mired in a monthlong slump when manager Ned Yost dropped him to the bottom of the order for a stretch.
But Yost felt the time was right to return to the team’s preferred lineup Tuesday.
That batting order has Escobar second, followed by Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Salvy Perez and Mike Moustakas.
“That was exactly the lineup we envisioned when we opened the season,” Yost said. “We’ve struggled at times offensively, but I firmly, firmly believe that we’re going to be a much better offensive club in the second half than we were in the first half.”
Hosmer and Moustakas have started to emerge from seasonlong slumps in recent weeks and shifting Perez to fifth is intended to provide protection for Butler, who hasn’t produced to his normal standards for much of the season.
Right-hander Felipe Paulino, who was recalled from a rehab stint at Class AA Northwest Arkansas after experiencing stiffness in his back, threw a simulated game Tuesday without trouble.
“The main thing is I feel great,” said Paulino, who underwent Tommy John surgery after leaving a June 6, 2012, start because of a sore elbow. “My lower back is good.”
If Paulino doesn’t experience a recurrence of the soreness in his back, he said he hopes to go back out on a minor-league assignment by the weekend.
“My pitches felt sharp,” Paulino said. “I’m really happy with my arm is right now. All of my stuff is ready. All I need is to do is pitch. I need to throw in some game situations.”
Yost was pleased with what he saw from Paulino, who was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts last season before the injury.
“His stuff was good,” Yost said. “He as a little erratic with command, but that’s to be expected. His stuff looked good.”
Paulino threw roughly 65 pitches against George Brett and Jason Kendall.
“That was pretty fun because George Brett looked pretty good,” Paulino said. “He got a hit. … He still has a great swing. It’s amazing. And Jason Kendall, he had a line drive up the middle.”
More draft picks sign
The Royals signed three more players from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, including eight-round pick Cody Stubbs, a senior left-handed-hitting first baseman from North Carolina.
Stubbs led the Tar Heels, who were eliminated Friday from the College World Series, with a .366 batting average (101 for 276) and a .576 slugging percentage. He socked 26 doubles with eight home runs and 76 RBIs in 71 games.
The Royals have now signed their top 20 draft picks and 27 of the top 30.
The two other signings, left-handed pitcher Brent Bonvillain from LSU and infielder Mike Mercurio from Mount Olive College, were undrafted players.
Bonvillain went 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 21 appearances, including six starts. He struck out 37 with 35 hits and 25 walks in 50 innings as a senior.
Finally, Mercurio batted .358 with 22 doubles, seven home runs and 57 RBIs in 52 games for the Trojans. He only struck out nine times in 228 plate appearances and stole 12 bases.
Fields wins Double-A Derby
Royals farmhand Matt Fields blasted his way to the Texas League All-Star Game Home Run Derby championship Tuesday at Class AA Northwest Arkansas’ home field, Arvest Ballpark.
To reach the final, Fields smacked 13 home runs during the preliminary round, the highest total among seven competitors.
Fields, who has 18 home runs in 71 games for the Naturals, then beat Kiel Roling of the Tulsa Drillers 11-6 in the final for the crown.
No word on whether Robinson Cano approved Fields’ selection for the Home Run Derby.
It was nine years ago Monday — June 24, 2004 — that the Royals traded center fielder Carlos Beltran to the Astros for catcher John Buck and cash.
The Royals also received third baseman Mark Teahen and right-hander Mike Wood from Oakland, who landed reliever Octavio Dotel from Houston in the deal.