Notes: Early hitting woes continue
Team sporting a .226 batting average entering Saturday
BALTIMORE -- Rookie third baseman Alex Gordon hasn't suddenly lost the ability to hit any more than 39-year-old outfielder Reggie Sanders has miraculously stumbled upon some sort of age-defying batting elixir.
So the fact that the Kansas City Royals held a mid-series meeting of their hitters on the day after they slipped into third-to-last-place in the American League with a .226 team average was merely a coincidence.
Hitting coach Mike Barnett gathered his embattled troops before Saturday night's game against Baltimore, but not to point out the obvious - that the Royals are struggling at the plate.
"I think more of it is (to) re-focus on your responsibilities more than anything else," manager Buddy Bell said. "By that, I mean, you can only do so much. When you get into a situation like this, individually or team-wise, you think about what you can do and you try not to do more than you can do."
Preaching individual responsibility resonated with Gordon, the heralded slugger who limped into Saturday's game with an .091 average and in a 2-for-14 hole for the current road trip.
"I think it's magnified because we're losing games and we're only scoring one run a game," said Gordon, who hit .325 with 29 homers and 101 RBIs at Double-A Wichita last year in his long Minor League season. "We're just not putting up numbers and we're not winning games. The pitching has been doing a pretty good job at giving us a chance to win."
The hitters, on the other hand, haven't been contributing. The Royals have lost six of seven, scoring 14 runs in the defeats. One-run efforts in successive losses at Camden Yards only drove home the point.
"You can't really focus too much on the past," Gordon said. "If you dwell on the past too much, you're just going to bring up negative stuff. Right now, we've just got to forget about what's happened and stay positive. When we go up there, we have to act like we're the best hitters out there."
Gordon might have been describing Sanders, whose hot bat earned him a start against Orioles right-hander Daniel Cabrera on Saturday. Instead of avoiding matching a right-handed hitter against a hard-throwing righty, Bell opted to keep Sanders -- who had three hits in Friday's 8-1 loss and is batting .500 (8-for-16) -- in the lineup.
"Clear your mind and everybody gets on the same page. Get back in sync -- that's what we have to do," Sanders said. `"You have to do what got you here. That's the toughest part of this game -- trying to erase the negative things that can happen during the course of the game."
"We all got up here for a reason. We know how to hit," Gordon said. "We're just struggling a little bit, but I think everything will be clicking in a little bit."
Dotel update: A magnetic resonance imaging test performed on injured closer Octavio Dotel's strained left oblique muscle in Kansas City on Friday revealed only minor inflammation and no serious damage.
"Just a little more inflammation, not a major issue," Bell said.
Dotel was throwing off a mound at the team's Spring Training complex in Surprise, Ariz., on Thursday when he had to cut the session short because of soreness in his side. The MRI was taken as a precaution to make sure Dotel hadn't sustained any significant damage to his recovering rib muscles.
Bell said Dotel would throw off a mound again Wednesday, probably in Kansas City. But there's little chance the Royals will get their closer, who was injured near the end of spring training, back before the end of April.
"Right now, we want to get him off the mound where he feels comfortable and he's not there yet," Bell said.
Lineup shuffle: Ross Gload, who is hitting .300 (6-for-20) was in the lineup as the designated hitter Saturday, as Bell opted to Mike Sweeney, who is hitting .179 and has only one RBI in eight games.
"We want to get (Gload) in the lineup and I was going to give Mike a night (off)," Bell said. "Mike will be back in there tomorrow."
After starting on consecutive days for the first time this season, catcher John Buck took a seat, yielding to Jason LaRue, who is also scheduled to catch Sunday. Buck and LaRue had been alternating games until Thursday.
Short leash? Saturday's starter, left-hander Odalis Perez, got only four outs in his last start April 9 at Toronto. But don't expect Bell to have the veteran on a short leash.
For starters, the Royals bullpen could use a rest after throwing six innings in the first two games of the series at Camden Yards. And Bell gives veterans -- even those like Perez, who is 0-2 and sporting a 10.20 ERA -- a little leeway.
"Veteran guys have a track record," Bell said. "They have a point of reference they can fall back on and they can kind of slow it down where they don't panic as much. Most good players are able to slow it down."
Coming up: Weather permitting, the Royals will send right-hander Zack Greinke (1-1, 1.38) to the hill for Sunday's finale of a four-game series at 12:35 p.m. CT. Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie will start for the Orioles in place of Jaret Wright, who went on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with right shoulder soreness. Heavy rains are predicted in Baltimore for Saturday night and Sunday.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.