Left fielder Alex Gordon wasn’t in the mood to mince words Wednesday after getting in some early work along with Billy Butler before Royals battled Baltimore.
Manager Ned Yost didn’t pencil Gordon, who has been mired in a slump since May 30, into the lineup.
“We’ve got two off days in the next 50, so I’ve got to find spots to give Alex a break and find spots to give Sal (Perez) a break,” Yost said while also noting that Gordon didn’t get the benefit of a full All-Star break.
Still, that’s not necessarily how Gordon took it.
“I never get days off,” Gordon said. “You get benched. That’s what I always say.”
Over the last 44 games, Gordon is batting only .188 with a .269 slugging percentage, going 30 for 160 with four doubles, three home runs and 18 RBIs. He’s stuck out 48 times and walked 25.
“I’ll be the first one to tell you, I haven’t been swinging it the way I should be, especially as a leadoff hitter,” Gordon said. “I’m just coming to the ballpark trying to get it figured out.”
Gordon refused to go into specifics, but he took soft toss and appeared to be working on handling inside pitches, among other adjustments.
Gordon’s absence left a hole atop the Royals’ batting order that was filled by center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
“We looked at a bunch of different things and Lorenzo is hitting .313 when leading off an inning with 70 at-bats, so we put him there,” Yost said.
It was Cain’s fourth start of the season in the leadoff spot.
“It’s just another spot in the lineup,” Cain said. “I’m going to go up there, battle and do the best I can to get on base and find ways to help this team win ballgames. The first at-bat, you try to see as many pitches as you can just to help your teammates out, but after that you’re just going up there and swinging — let ’er rip.”
Johnson starts in right
Entering Wednesday, Elliot Johnson had made eight career appearances and one start in the outfield.
But with Gordon on the bench and Yost preferring a right-handed batter go against Orioles southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, the switch-hitting Johnson got the starting nod in right field.
He also got a little pregame tutorial on playing balls in the corner from first base coach Rusty Kuntz, but Johnson insisted the adjustment to the outfield isn’t too tough.
“It’s part of my job description, so I’ll go out there and do my best,” Johnson said. “I’m not expected to be Alex Gordon, a Gold Glover, out there. I’m just expected to make the routine plays, so I’ll go out there and catch the balls that are hit to me and throw it to the cutoff man. That’s all I’m expecting from myself and all they expect, too.”
The throws from right field are much different than from second base, where Johnson has made the most appearances, but he has a strong arm and wasn’t worried about that adjustment either.
“It’s different, but that’s not something you think about,” Johnson said. “It’s just something you do. You’re not going to go out there and be thinking about an arm motion or you’re just going to screw things up.”
Angels claim Gutierrez
The Angels claimed former Royals reliever J.C. Gutierrez off waivers Wednesday.
Gutierrez had been designated for assignment July 14 after going 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 25 appearances.
Wednesday was the last day for teams to claim Gutierrez, 30, before he became a free agent or the Royals could have optioned him to Class AAA Omaha.
“He’ll be fine,” Yost said. “Good for him. He did good for us, and he’ll do good for him.”
Right-hander Felipe Paulino will throw two simulated innings before Thursday’s game as he continued his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
Paulino was cleared to resume pitching last month and turned in a terrific performance in his first rehab start with Class AA Northwest Arkansas, but back and shoulder problems stalled that progress.
Club officials will decide the next step from there. Tentative plans call for him to throw three simulated innings Tuesday, but that’s subject to change.
It was 14 years ago — July 25, 1999 — that Royals hitting coach George Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Brett, the only player enshrined as a Royal, was inducted alongside Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount.
It was 12 years ago — July 25, 2001 — when former manager Allard Baird pulled the trigger on a three-team trade that sent All-Star right-fielder Jermaine Dye to Colorado for shortstop Neifi Perez. Dye was subsequently sent on to Oakland for three players.