The Royals delayed opening their clubhouse for nearly 30 minutes beyond the mandated time to conduct an afternoon meeting in the wake of a 2-8 skid that had included just 11 hits in 86 at-bats with runners in scoring position going into Friday's game. That slide grew to 2-9 and 18 hits in 99 at-bats with runners in scoring position after an 11-10 loss to the Nationals.
“Forget all of the reasons,” Yost said. “Forget all of the excuses. It’s time to produce.”
He declined to offer further details.
“Some housekeeping issues,” Yost said. “It’s just between us. It was just a meeting. That’s the last one, too. They’re trying, but it’s time to quit talking about all that. We need to do better.”
One positive perhaps easy to overlook in the Royals’ current slide is Kelvin Herrera, who continues to show signs of regaining the form that last year made him one the game’s top set-up relievers.
Herrera has his ERA down to 3.70 after yielding just one run in 13 2/3 August innings. It was 5.20 when he returned July 19 from a second remedial stay in the minors.
“I have so much confidence right now,” he said. “I feel like I’ve (got it back). I think that was a tough time I had to go through. A lot of players have to do that.”
Herrera, 23, compiled a 2.35 ERA last season in 76 appearances but got off to a rocky start this year by giving up eight homers in his first 20 1/3 innings prior to his first demotion.
A few successful outings at Class AAA Omaha prompted a recall just 11 days later, but Herrera continued to struggle against big-league competition. That led to a second trip to Omaha.
“Bad location,” he explained. “That’s all it was. Poor location on my pitches. I was never scared to throw any pitch, but I had poor location on my pitches.”
Herrera also spent his second minor-league tour working to hone his breaking ball as a counterpoint to a fastball that often touches triple digits. He rejoined the big-league club when play resumed after the All-Star break.
“He’s been more consistent in the strike zone,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s getting ahead in the count and keeping the ball down. For the most part, he’s been ahead in the count and attacking with his fastball.”
Herrera has a 1.80 ERA in 21 innings over 18 appearances since he returned. He has allowed just one homer in that span while striking out 28, walking five and allowing five hits.
“I’ve been throwing more breaking balls since I came back,” he said. “When I went to Triple-A, I worked a lot on my breaking ball. It’s paying off.”
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain tested his strained left oblique prior to Friday’s game by taking some dry swings (i.e., no ball) and working through some light on-field agility drills.
“It’s better,” he said. “Moving in the right direction. I’m still feeling it a little when I cough, and that’s a bit of a concern, but I think it’s getting better.”
Cain suffered the injury in batting practice prior to the Aug. 9 game against Boston. He is eligible to return Saturday from the disabled list but admitted it will likely be several more days.
“I’m hoping” he said, before a long pause, “by the end of the month. That would be a best-case scenario.”
Club officials continue to view mid-September as a more-likely date.
Gordon gets award
Left fielder Alex Gordon was honored in a pregame ceremony as this year’s Royals recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, which is determined by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
The award seeks to recognize “players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game.”
The 30 team winners are eligible for the national award. Angels outfielder Mike Trout was last year’s overall winner.
Gordon received his award from broadcaster Jeff Montgomery, a three-time All-Star who spent most of his 13-year career with the Royals.
Washington tweaked its roster prior to Friday’s series opener in a manner that delayed the return of former Royals outfielder David DeJesus to Kauffman Stadium.
The Nationals traded DeJesus, whom they had acquired earlier in the week from the Chicago Cubs, to Tampa Bay for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
That means DeJesus, 33, will return Monday to Kauffman when the Rays make a one-game visit for the rescheduled May 2 snowout. DeJesus played for the Royals from 2003 to 2010.
The Nationals also traded catcher Kurt Suzuki to Oakland for minor-league pitcher Dakota Bacus, whom they assigned to Lo-A Hagerstown.
Washington filled the two roster vacancies by recalling catcher Jhonathan Solano and lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno from Class AAA Syracuse.
Infielder Hunter Dozier, the Royals’ first-round pick in the June draft, is continuing his hot doubles pace since his recent promotion to Lo-A Lexington.
Dozier, who turned 22 Thursday, has four doubles in nine games for the Legends which, combined with his production at short-season Idaho Falls, gives him 26 doubles in 56 games.
The Royals shifted Dozier from shortstop to third base following his promotion — a move that seems likely to stick. The club has Raul Adalberto Mondesi, one of its top prospects, playing shortstop at Lexington.
Dozier is batting .273 (nine for 33) through his first nine games at Lexington. Overall, he is batting .290 in his first pro season with a .366 on-base percentage and a .489 slugging percentage.
•Gordon, who was three for four with two doubles, a single, a walk and four runs scored, is nine for 25 in his last six games.
•Eric Hosmer is hitting .340 in August after going three for three with a two-run homer, single, double, three RBIs and two walks.
•With two singles, Billy Butler passed Joe Randa for seventh on the Royals' all-time hits list with 1,085.
It was 31 years ago Saturday — Aug. 24, 1982 — that John Wathan set a major-league record for steals by a catcher in a season when he got his 31st in the seventh inning of a 5-3 victory at Texas.
That broke a record of 30 set 66 years earlier by Hall of Famer Ray Schalk in 1916 for the Chicago White Sox.
Wathan finished the season with 36 steals, which remains the record for a catcher. The most by a catcher since 1982 was 26 in 1998 by Jason Kendall, then with Pittsburgh.