Veteran lefty Bruce Chen is returning to the Royals’ rotation in place of struggling right-hander Luis Mendoza, who will shift to duty as the bullpen’s long reliever.
The move came one day after Mendoza, 2-5, lasted just 1 2/3 innings in a 10-4 loss to Oakland at Kauffman Stadium. He yielded five runs, which hiked his earned-run average to 4.87.
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“We went through these scenarios in spring training,” manager Ned Yost said. “That’s why we named Mendy (as a starter) so early in the spring. People wanted to know why we didn’t let it play out.
“It’s because Mendy had pitched in winter ball. He had pitched in the Caribbean Series. He pitched in the WBC (World Baseball Classic). He was more ready to go at the beginning of the season.”
Chen, 36, won a club-best 34 games as a starter over the three previous seasons but struggled in spring training — allowing 13 runs and 19 hits in 16 2/3 innings.
“Bruce is not an early-start guy,” Yost said. “Our thought was to start with Mendy, but if he started faltering at all around the All-Star break, we’d insert Bruce back in.”
Chen returns to the rotation after going 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA while working 33 2/3 innings over 19 appearances. He permitted two runs in 3 1/3 innings Sunday after replacing Mendoza.
“Bruce is completely fresh,” Yost said. “and, now, hopefully he stays completely strong in the second half.”
Chen’s first start will be Friday in the opener to a three-game series in Cleveland.
Coleman recalled; Smith optioned
The Royals also moved to shore up a suddenly-struggling and now-thin bullpen by recalling right-hander Louis Coleman from Class AAA Omaha.
Coleman replaces lefty Will Smith, who was optioned back to Omaha one day after he permitted three runs in three innings in a 10-4 loss to Oakland.
The Royals’ bullpen, prior to Monday, permitted 14 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings over the previous seven games, but Yost said the need for a “fresh arm” forced the move.
“I don’t want to be limited to a four-man bullpen,” Yost said. “I need a fresh arm up here because I can’t use Will for three days, I can’t use Mendy for three days, and I can’t use Bruce for three days.
“Let’s get another arm up here that I can use. We’ve got seven games before the All-Star break, and I want to take advantage of every situation I can.”
Coleman, 27, was 3-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 24 games at Omaha and was recently picked as the Storm Chasers’ only representative for the Triple-A All-Star Game.
The Royals prepared him for possible duty as a long reliever by using him for more than two innings in four of his last six outings at Omaha.
“It’s a little different,” Coleman said, “but they gave me time off and necessary rest. So I was always ready to go. I was throwing more strikes. That was good.”
Coleman’s only big-league save came at Yankee Stadium when he closed out a 4-3 victory in 11 innings on May 11, 2011. It was the same game in which Eric Hosmer hit his first career homer.
Smith’s demotion stemmed, largely, from the fact he has options remaining. Prior to Sunday, he had not allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings in four relief outings following his June 25 recall from Omaha.
No more Mo (soon)
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera blew a save Sunday when he permitted a two-run homer to Chris Davis in a 2-1 loss to Baltimore. That was Rivera’s second blown save this season in 31 chances.
Some perspective (courtesy of ESPN New York) on Rivera’s history against the Royals, who opened a four-game series Monday night at Yankee Stadium:
Start with this: The Royals have not scored more than one run in any of their last 55 appearances against Rivera. And his 37 career saves against them are the second most by any opponent. (Joe Nathan has 40.)
Rivera’s current streak of 29 straight successful saves against the Royals is the longest streak by any opponent in Royals history. (It ranks second in Rivera’s career; he had a 33-save run against Tampa Bay.)
It was last year at Kauffman Stadium that Rivera suffered a season-ending knee injury while shagging balls in the outfield. He had been pondering retirement, but the injury prodded him to return.
“I'm coming back,” he said. “Put it down. Write it down in big letters. I ain't going down like this.”
Rivera saved two games in mid-May when the Yankees swept a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. This four-game series at Yankee Stadium is the last time the Royals will see him.
Barring a possible postseason matchup, of course.
The Royals are holding their 21st annual blood drive this week in partnership with the Community Blood Center.
Former players Willie Wilson and Greg Pryor will join Sluggerrr in greeting donors Tuesday at the Center’s location at 4040 Main Street.
All donors who register at any of the Center’s participating locations through Friday will get two tickets to a Royals game and, while they last, a commemorative Royals Blood Drive T-shirt.
The Center has locations in Blue Springs, Gladstone, Overland Park, St. Joseph and Topeka in addition to its 4040 Main Street facility.
Lo-A Lexington right-hander Daniel Stumpf was picked as the South Atlantic League pitcher of the week after pitching a seven-inning no-hitter against Greenville in his only start.
Stumpf, 22, is 6-6 overall with a 3.30 ERA in 15 starts. He was the Royals’ ninth-round pick in the 2012 draft. He pitched last season as a reliever and compiled a 1.55 ERA in 19 appearances at short-season Burlington.
Three Royals are cited by Baseball America in its midseason rankings of the top-50 prospects: Right-handed pitchers Yordano Ventura (at No. 26) and Kyle Zimmer (No. 28) and shortstop Raul Adalberto Mondesi (No. 50).
Ventura, 22, is 2-3 with a 4.93 ERA in seven games at Class AAA Omaha since his promotion from Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Zimmer, 21, is 2-8 with a 5.26 ERA in 16 starts at Hi-A Wilmington, while Mondesi, 17, is batting .272 with five homers and 38 RBIs in 75 games at Lo-A Lexington.
Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, one of the Royals’ top prospects, rejoined the Hi-A Wilmington roster after batting .300 in nine games on a rehab assignment at Rookie Surprise.
Bonifacio, 20, was batting .325 through 34 games at Wilmington when he suffered a broken hamate bone in his hand in mid-May. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked him as the organization’s No. 4 prospect.
Outfielder Willie Wilson, a 2000 inductee into the Royals Hall of Fame, will turn 58 on Tuesday.
Wilson was a batting champion (1982), a Gold Glove winner (1980) and a two-time All-Star (1982-83). He also still holds the club’s single-season record for stolen bases with 83 in 1979.
It was 42 years ago Tuesday — July 10, 1971 — that Fred Patek became the first Royals player to hit for the cycle. He did it in a 6-3 victory at Minnesota. All four hits came against Twins starter Jim Perry.
Patek opened the game with a double. He got a single in the second and a triple in the fourth. After a fielder’s-choice grounder to short in the seventh, Patek broke a 3-3 tie with a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning.
It was the first of six cycles in Royals’ history. John Mayberry did it in 1977, George Brett did it in 1979 and 1990, and Frank White did it in 1979 and 1982.