Notes: Nunez to be sidelined a month
Righty suffers hairline fracture of wrist after being hit by liner
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals learned Saturday morning they will be without reliever Leo Nunez for perhaps a month or more after the right-hander fractured his wrist as a result of a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Kendry Morales during Friday night's game at Surprise Stadium.
"He's got a hairline fracture of his right wrist," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "He's in a splint right now, but I think they're going to cast it and then in another week they're going to do another MRI to see where he's at. [As far as a] time frame I don't know, it's hard to tell. I guess we'll know more in another week to 10 days when the swelling goes down. There's no displacement, which is good."
Nunez, 3-2 with a 6.99 ERA in 48 career appearances, was in the running for a bullpen spot. While Bell couldn't say for certain, the 23-year-old Dominican is expected to be sidelined at least a month.
"[He's] got a hairline on his throwing arm, the problem with that is he can't do anything until it heals, so he's going to have to go through his whole Spring Training regimen again," Bell said. "I don't see him [coming back] before a month if not longer."
Nunez's injury wasn't the only bad news Bell received following the short night's rest.
The anticipated confirmation that another reliever, Joe Nelson, will undergo shoulder surgery came Saturday morning. There were two other minor medical issues for the manager to deal with, including third baseman Alex Gordon's bruised right shoulder and shortstop Angel Sanchez's sore hamstring.
"[Nelson] is going to get his shoulder operated on within the next week," Bell said. "It's major surgery -- I don't know if it's the [rotator] cuff or labrum or whatever. It's a shoulder issue that he's going to get taken care of in the next week."
Nelson, 32, missed much of the 2002 season and all of 2003 as a result of arm problems. He is expected to be out at least two months.
Nelson went 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA in 43 games last season. The right-hander converted nine of 10 save opportunities and finished second on the team in saves behind former Royals pitcher and current New York Mets hurler Ambiorix Burgos (18). In 44 2/3 innings, Nelson struck out 44 and walked 24. He held opponents to a .226 batting average.
"We knew that Joe wasn't going to start the season anyway, just because he just was too far behind, but again, that doesn't change our innings situation," Bell said. "We were going to cut down [the roster] anyway probably Tuesday. What that will do is we'll just kind of maybe keep somebody else here a little longer than we wanted to just to suck up some innings, but in terms of [someone moving up], there wasn't any separation anyway as far as who's ahead of who right now. Obviously, that helps somebody else, but our depth takes a little bit of a hit."
Bell said the injuries to Sanchez and Gordon could be characterized as day to day at this point.
"Sanchez has got a little bit of a hamstring issue and Gordon came in with a shoulder issue," Bell said. "[I'm] not sure if it's serious or not, we don't know how serious it is. I guess [it happened] on a dive or something he did last night, we don't really know when he did it. [Gordon] just woke up today [and] it was stiff, so we'll probably shut him down for a couple of days.
"Alex didn't get any treatment last night after the game, it was just more something that happened through the night, he did it during the game. We'll know a little bit more as the day goes on in terms of if it loosens up or whatever. At this point, we don't feel like it's a serious issue."
Though not pleased with the rash of injuries, Bell took the news in stride.
"Same thing happened last spring, but you know what, that's kind of the way it is, you've just got to deal with it and hope that they're minor issues," he said. "We're not as deep as we want to be certainly at this point organizationally, so we really don't want any of this to happen, but we'll adjust to it and we'll get to see some other guys play obviously. We want Alex to get as many at-bats as he can down here and get as many ground balls as he can. This will set him back a little bit, but I don't see it being a big issue."
Teahen taking to switch: When the Royals first approached Mark Teahen about moving from third base to the outfield, Teahen wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea.
"I talked to him a lot about this at the end of the year," said Bell, a former third baseman. "I think at first he was a little bit [angry] about this, which is all right. He thought he was doing a good job at third, which he was, but with Gordon here, we wanted to give him every chance to make our club, so we wanted to be honest with [Teahen] and upfront, and he was honest with us as far as how he felt.
"As long as you keep it that way, there's no secrets, we're upfront with everything, [it's fine]. But when you're dealing with a guy like Mark, it's pretty easy because he's a pretty good evaluator of himself and he cares about the team."
Teahen, who hit .290 with 18 homers and 69 RBIs as Kansas City's regular third baseman last season, ultimately went along with the move to right field and is working hard to make the switch a seamless one.
"I worked to become the best third baseman I could be; it hurt, but at the same time I understood it's best for the team right now and it only helps me to be more versatile," Teahen said. "Switching postions helps the team, so I'm willing to do that."
Teahen is getting a crash course in outfield play this spring and his athleticism has helped compensate for the unfamiliarity.
"I've really only had about five games out there and played about five innings in each, so, by no means, do I feel totally comfortable out there, but I'm working every day on it and starting to feel more comfortable," Teahen said.
There's less for a right fielder to be aware of than a third baseman, but the periods of inactivity can be a problem.
"As soon as you start feeling comfortable a play will come up that you've never seen before," Teahen said. "Hopefully I can experience a lot of things so it will become more natural come time for the season."
Sometimes learning a new position can be a distraction to other parts of a player's game, like hitting. Teahen doesn't think that will be the case in his situation.
"I've had plenty of time to go through the mental aspects of switching positions. I'm fine with it now; [it] really shouldn't affect any part of my game," he said.
Meanwhile, Bell is pleased by what he's seen of Teahen's outfield defense so far.
"He's made some great plays already," Bell said. "You know with the big swing and the balls off the end of the bat, or the big swing [with] somebody getting jammed, those are the kind of plays that he's going to have difficulty reading right now, because you read the swing but the ball doesn't come off the way you swing. Any defender has a problem with that [but] especially a guy learning a new position."
Quotable: "He had the same motion, looks like he was free and easy, you know, but the same stuff wasn't coming out, obviously. Hopefully, for his sake and theirs, he comes all the way back. He's a talented kid." -- Bell, on Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, who gave up four runs in two innings against the Royals on Saturday
Quotable II: "Now these guys have got to get busy. Everybody's been down here long enough where we've really got to get after making decisions, guys have to get after it, and they have, [but] we don't need this season to creep up on us." -- Bell
Extra bases: Left-hander John Bale left Saturday's game after facing three batters in the ninth because of a problem with a shoulder muscle. "Something with the lat muscle," Bell said. "I don't know when he did it, I noticed he was kind of turning [his shoulder] a pitch or two before the last out." Bale faced three batters and recorded only one out. He also gave up two hits, including a home run. ... Jorge De La Rosa started and went three innings. The lefty walked two and struck out three. "He just needs to be more consistent in the strike zone," Bell said. "He just needs to know where every pitch is going. At times, at least he's wild in the strike zone now instead of being all over the place. He's zoning in on it." ... Right-hander Brandon Duckworth helped his case to stick on the roster with three solid innings. Duckworth, whose ERA is 1.80, gave up a run on two hits, struck out four and did not walk anyone. "I thought Duckworth did really good," Bell said. "His breaking ball is much sharper than it was at any time last year. He's been impressive both times now." ... Billy Butler was hit by a pitch on the left hand in his only plate appearance, but he was not injured and remained in the game.
On deck: The Royals go back on the road Sunday when they travel to Tucson to take on the Colorado Rockies in a 3:05 p.m. CT game at Hi Corbett Field. Joakim Soria will start against the Rockies. Jimmy Gobble, Jason Standridge, Joel Peralta, Roberto Giron and Jason Shiell are also scheduled to pitch. The Rockies plan to pitch Josh Fogg, Byung-Hyun Kim, LaTroy Hawkins and Denny Bautista. The Royals will also have a "B" game at 10 a.m. against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium, and right-hander Brian Bannister is the probable starter in that one.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.