KC may have new infield parts after break
Tampa Bay (48-41) at KC (37-51), Friday, 7:10 p.m. CT
BOSTON -- Royals manager Trey Hillman is anticipating having a different look on the left side of his infield when the second half begins on Friday night against the Rays at Kauffman Stadium.
Newly acquired Yuniesky Betancourt is expected to be at shortstop, with Alex Gordon returning to third base after a long absence.
"Yeah, depending on how Gordy is and the consistency of play, at least defensively, that we get out of him," Hillman said. "And, hopefully, Yuniesky's hamstring is fully healed and we can have him for the workout and then the first day after the break. I'm looking forward to how it impacts the club."
As the All-Star break began after Sunday's game, there was no guarantee that there would be the left-side look, because both players were still on injury rehabilitation assignments with Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Betancourt was getting over a right hamstring strain (not the left, as originally reported) sustained before the Royals traded for him last Friday, sending the Seattle Mariners two Minor League pitchers, Danny Cortes and Derrick Saito.
Gordon played just seven games, hitting .095, before undergoing hip surgery on April 17. He played games at Surprise, Ariz., and Triple-A Omaha before going to Northwest Arkansas.
"He's been alternating playing third base and DHing," Hillman said. "He's still not running anywhere close to full speed. He hasn't had a lot of soreness, just a little bit of stiffness that's come up on occasion."
Because he's not likely to be ready to play defensively at third base every day, Mark Teahen will also be in the third-base picture as well as playing in the outfield and occasionally at first base.
Betancourt, a .250 hitter in 63 games for the Mariners, will take over shortstop from Willie Bloomquist, the most frequent occupant since Mike Aviles was injured and taken out for the year by elbow surgery.
"Physical condition as far as the hamstring is his leg's supposed to be OK," Hillman said.
Bloomquist was out of the lineup for the past two games before the break with sore knees, but he was expected to resume his super-utility role after the four off-days.
Hillman likes to tinker with possible batting orders.
"I've played around with some lineups. I don't know exactly how it will fall yet," Hillman said. "Yuniesky will probably hit in the lower half of the lineup somewhere. Gordon will be sixth or seventh, somewhere in there."
The skipper wasn't sure just how the rotation would shake out after the break depending on the extent of Zack Greinke's participation in the All-Star Game. However, the back spasm suffered by Gil Meche in Saturday night's game was not expected to be a factor.
"We're not real concerned about that actually," Hillman said. "I think he'll be OK. We don't think it'll be anything major or lingering."Pitching matchup
KC: Brian Bannister, RHP (6-7, 3.66)
Bannister pitched what he felt was the best game of his career in his previous outing at Fenway Park. He shut out the Red Sox for seven innings on one hit before yielding the game's only run in the eighth. Bannister gave up just three hits along with four walks and struck out seven, facing 30 batters in 7 2/3 innings. He was also pleased, as a pitcher with fly-ball tendency, to get 10 groundouts versus four flyouts. Bannister, in his past three starts, has given up just four earned runs in 20 2/3 innings, yet stands 1-2 in those games. TB: RHP James Shields (6-6, 3.42 ERA)
Shields is blue-collar all the way, normally putting in his seven or eight innings before calling it a day. He is a master at using his fastball command to setup one of the best changeups in baseball. The Rays' No. 1 starter will open the second half in a setting where he's had success in the past. Shields is 5-0 with a 2.50 ERA in five career starts against the Royals; he is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two career starts at Kauffman Stadium.
Meche, who got his 1,000th career strikeout against the Red Sox on Saturday night (Jason Bay did the honors), has 426 of his 1,001 as a member of the Royals in 87 starts. ... Hillman's ejection in the third game in Boston was the second for him this year and the fifth in his two-year career. ... In the sixth inning on Saturday night, the Royals scored five runs to tie a season high (fourth time). But Teahen had the dubious distinction of striking out twice in the inning, the first Royal to do that in one frame since Tony Graffanino on June 23, 2004, in the first inning in Detroit. ... Of Mike Jacobs' 12 home runs this season, six have come on a two-strike count.
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Saturday: Rays (Scott Kazmir, 4-5, 7.11) at Royals (Zack Greinke, 10-5, 2.12), 6:10 p.m. CT
Sunday: Rays (Matt Garza, 6-7, 3.73) at Royals (Luke Hochevar, 5-3, 5.34), 1:10 p.m. CT
Monday: Angels (TBD) at Royals (Gil Meche, 4-9, 4.50), 7:10 p.m. CT
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.