KANSAS CITY -- Fernando Cortez made his first start of the season on Saturday against the Marlins, replacing Esteban German at second base. German, who is considered the regular second baseman with Mark Grudzielanek (knee) on the disabled list, is considered day-to-day because of back and hip problems.

"This is just to give Este a rest," manager Buddy Bell said. "Este has not been 100 percent. I want to play him tomorrow. I was going to give him a rest one of these two games. Tonight just seems to make more sense."

Cortez, who was recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday to provide infield help, will play in his second game of the season and 10th of his big-league career. It was the first time he started a game since July 19, 2005, when he played for the Devil Rays. He singled in his first at-bat for his second Major League hit and first since July 17, 2005.

"I am excited and looking forward to the game," he said. "I would like to help the club win a ballgame."

Sanders update: Reggie Sanders, on the disabled list since May 3 with a left hamstring tear, is progressing from his injury, taking batting practice on a daily basis and starting to run more.

"Running is probably the most important thing here," Sanders said. "I have to build my legs back up, too, since it has been so long since I have been out there. So, I am building the legs back up and making sure it is OK, and getting my swing back at the same time."

Bell said Sanders is eight-to-10 days away from returning.

"I am getting better each day," Sanders said. "I would probably be at 80-85 percent right now."

Sanders, who will make the trip on the team's upcoming road trip that starts on Monday in St. Louis, has also provided plenty of veteran leadership to the many young players on the Royals' roster -- young players that have started to turn KC's season around.

"I know the talent that these young guys have and that it would be a matter of time before they would break out," he said.

Gload update: Ross Gload, on the DL since May 14 with a right quadriceps tear, will not return to the team for a few more weeks.

"Reggie is a little further than Ross is," Bell said. "Ross' tear looks like it has scarred up pretty good. We just want to make certain he is completely healthy before he goes back out there."

O'Neil seat: In honor of Military Appreciation Day, retired 1st Sgt. Albert Curley sat in Buck's seat on Saturday. He served in World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart medal.

Wathan signed: The Royals signed shortstop Derek Wathan from the Independent League Long Island Ducks on Friday. Wathan is the son of former Royals player and manager John Wathan. He will report to Triple-A Omaha. Wathan, who was selected by the Marlins in the second round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, has never played in the Majors, but has five years of Triple-A experience.

Sixth-inning stretch Sunday: Major League Baseball, Gillette and the Prostate Cancer Foundation will celebrate a sixth-inning stretch on Father's Day. On-field personnel will have blue wristbands, blue eye glare, temporary blue ribbon tattoos and blue ribbon uniform decals on Sunday. Game used bases, team autographed home plates and lineup cards will be auctioned at a later date.

Bunts: Considered a defensive specialist when he was signed by the Royals, Tony Pena has become an offensive threat, batting .277 with 18 RBIs entering Saturday's game. His .668 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks 19th out of 27 Major League shortstops who qualify for the batting title. "Just getting good pitches to hit," he said. ... KC's 27-41 mark after 68 games is eight games better than the 2006 record at this point in the season. ... The Royals are averaging eight runs a game in Interleague Play and hold a 7-3 record against their NL opponents. ... The Royals celebrated Military Appreciation Night before Saturday's contest.

Royals rundown: Triple-A Omaha lost in 10 innings, 6-5, to Iowa on Friday. Mitch Maier went 4-for-6 with a double, homer and three RBIs. Craig Brazell and Jace Brewer each allowed two hits. ... Double-A Wichita lost, 7-3, to Springfield. Carlos Rosa, one of the Royals' top prospects, was hit for six runs and 10 hits in four innings. Leo Nunez allowed just one run in four innings of relief. ... Class A Wilmington fell, 9-5, to Winston-Salem. Blake Johnson allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits in six innings. Marc Maddox, one of the fastest-moving players from KC's 2006 Draft class, drew two walks and scored twice. After a promotion to Class A Wilmington, Maddox is batting .256 in 156 at-bats. ... Class A Burlington lost, 8-1, to Kane County. Josh Cribb permitted three runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Player of the day: Maier. One of the Royals' best hitting prospects, Maier enjoyed his best game of the season. After a slow start (.260 average in April), he is batting .289 with five homers and 30 RBIs this season, including a .333 mark in his last 10 games. Maier was the Royals' first round pick in 2003.

Coming up: Brian Bannister (3-3, 2.91 ERA), 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA in his last three starts, will oppose Marlins left-hander Scott Olsen (5-5, 4.81 ERA) on Father's Day. First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. CT.