Royals second baseman Omar Infante avoided disaster Monday evening thanks to an involuntary act: In the instant before Tampa Bay reliever Heath Bell’s 89-mph fastball collided with Infante’s jaw, he opened his mouth.
“If he would have had his jaws closed,” Royals manager Ned Yost said Tuesday afternoon, “the odds of fracture would have been much greater.”
Instead, Infante suffered a sprained jaw and what a statement from the team called a “non-concussive head injury.” He required six stitches to repair a laceration on the left side of his chin.
The team’s training staff and medical staff informed Yost they do not believe Infante will require a stint on the 15-day disabled list.
Infante emerged from a battery of tests overnight at the University of Kansas Hospital and rejoined his teammates Tuesday. He was able to speak and chew food. But Infante is not eligible to play, at least for the next 48 hours. The team intends to make an evaluation on his readiness by Thursday.
Yost declined to place a timetable on Infante’s return.
“I’d sit here and hope he plays tomorrow,” Yost said. “But where does that get me? I go day to day with it. We’ll see. If it gets four, five, six days out, then we’ll have to revisit it and make a decision.”
In the interim, Danny Valencia started at second base Tuesday night. Third baseman Mike Moustakas will serve as both the backup shortstop and second baseman. Backup catcher Brett Hayes can play both first and third base.
Yost brushed off questions about his exact strategy in case of emergency. He mentioned left fielder Alex Gordon’s past experience at third base. He even floated the idea of catcher Salvador Perez playing shortstop.
The contingency plans may not be necessary for very long, though. The organization has not ruled out making roster moves necessary to refresh both their bullpen and their infield. Either Johnny Giavotella or Christian Colon could be promoted if the team thinks it needs a backup infielder.
Giavotella is a more accomplished hitter. Colon is a more proficient fielder. The team must decide which asset is more critical at this point in the season.
Meanwhile, reliever Louis Coleman stayed with the team after throwing a bullpen session on Monday. Coleman is healthy, Yost said, but he was not activated before Tuesday’s game.
“He’s here, ready to be taken off the DL,” Yost said. “But we’re not going to do that today.”
For now, the team will stick with 12 pitchers and only five infielders. The pressure is on Valencia, who has spent his career as a third baseman. He trained for this scenario during the Cactus League.
Like the Royals, rival evaluators worry about Valencia’s ability to turn the double play. One scout who watched him in the Cactus League delivered a succinct appraisal.
“Not good,” the scout said.
Yost was more charitable in his assessment.
“He turned a couple where you look to the guy next to you, and say ‘That was OK,’ ” Yost said.