Despite declaring several times in the past week that Alex Gordon was not returning to the leadoff spot, manager Ned Yost penciled in his All-Star Gold Glove left fielder at the top of the order Thursday for the series finale against the White Sox.
The switch also moved designated hitter Billy Butler back to the cleanup spot, while first baseman Eric Hosmer remained second and catcher Salvy Perez moved into the third spot in the Royals’ batting order.
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It’s all part of manager Ned Yost’s continuing search to spark a struggling offense.
“There’s not a lot I can do,” Yost said. “These guys have to go out and produce, but the one thing that I can do is put them in a different spot and give them a different bit of a mindset to see if that gets them going. As soon as they get back on track, we’ll get back on track.”
Yost indicated that he’ll stick with the retooled lineup for the foreseeable future.
“If you’ve watched me manage much over the last three years, you know that I don’t move guys around a lot,” Yost said. “We’re going to stick with Alex in the one for a while.”
Entering Thursday, Yost had used 104 lineups in 125 games. Only four AL teams — Tampa Bay (110), Seattle (110), New York (108) and Houston (108) — have used more. The league average is 97.
For now at least, Gordon returns to the table-setter role.
“You have to switch things around periodically throughout the season, especially with our offense struggling,” Butler said. “I know Alex feels comfortable in the one hole.”
Disappearing ball trick
The sign behind home plate, which swallowed loose pitches on back-to-back nights, has been repaired.
On Tuesday, an Ervin Santana fastball skipped past Perez and ripped a hole in the mesh sign. It was the first time a ball had disappeared into the ad display at Kauffman Stadium.
Amazingly, another ball disappeared on Wednesday when a Jeremy Guthrie breaking pitch hit the sign a couple inches from the existing hole, which had been taped together while the new sign was printed and shipped.
“We’d never had anything like that happen before Tuesday, so what are the chances it would happen two straight days?” Royals vice president of business and marketing Michael Bucek asked. “It’s like lightning hitting the same spot twice.”
Fox Sports Kansas City microphones caught an incredulous Salvy Perez say, “Again?” after the ball Guthrie threw vanished.
The rotating signage to either side is padded, so a ball can’t tear through. However, the space in the middle can’t be padded, because it also houses a parabolic microphone and two directional microphones.
The new sign has grommets closer together and a 1-by-8 board was added at the top on the left side to provide additional support.
Right-hander Felipe Paulino will continue his rehab Friday at Class AAA Omaha.
“I’m up to 90, 95 (pitches), and we’re going to keep building it up,” Paulino said. “Right now, I’m trying to go deep into games and we’ll see how I feel come September.”
Paulino left a start in June 2012 with elbow discomfort and underwent Tommy John surgery. His comeback was stalled by back and shoulder tightness, but now he’s full steam ahead again.
“I’m a little off mechanically, but that’s normal,” Paulino said. “I haven’t pitched much in a long time, but I’m focused on working those mechanics. Everything — back, shoulder, elbow — feels good, so I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”
Butler still proud
Designated hitter Billy Butler understands that a 2-7 stretch has tamped down fan enthusiasm after the Royals’ second-half surge reached a crescendo with a 6-2 win Aug. 12 against the Marlins.
Still, he is happy with the strides made this season.
“When you look at years past, we’re 64-61 (entering Thursday) and I know what my record’s been on every team I’ve been a part of here in Kansas City up to this point,” Butler said. “I’m proud of these guys. That doesn’t mean we’ve quit or we’re satisfied being where we’re at, but I’m proud to be teammates with these guys.”
In Butler’s six previous seasons, the Royals have never been better than 56-69 through 125 games and have averaged only 53 wins during that time.
• Before Friday’s game with the Nationals, Jeff Montgomery will present Royals left fielder Alex Gordon with the club’s MLB Players Alumni Association’s Heart and Hustle Award. Gordon was honored for his work with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds for cancer research.
• An hour before Thursday’s game, first baseman Paul Konerko was scratched after experiencing light-headedness.
• Also before the game, the White Sox recalled infielder Leury Garcia, who was acquired as the player to be named from Texas in the Alex Rios trade, from Class AAA Charlotte. Outfielder Blake Tekotte had been optioned to Charlotte after Wednesday’s game.