KANSAS CITY -- Now playing third base for the Royals, Brayan Pena. Or maybe Mitch Maier.

Such an announcement isn't likely to come over the stadium public-address system, but both Pena and Maier have been taking ground balls at third base, just in case.

"We're starting to look to next year and piecing our team together, and the guys that are more versatile, that play third in a pinch -- we need that," manager Ned Yost said. "We've just got them taking ground balls in case something happens in the sixth inning and we need somebody to play third."

Pena, a catcher, has played some third, first and outfield in the Minors and winter ball, and he appeared in one game at third for the Atlanta Braves.

"I like to move around a little bit because you never know what's going to happen," Pena said. "I've been doing that ever since I was with the Braves in the big leagues, and I'm very confident out there at third base or at first."

Rookie Mike Moustakas is entrenched at third base, and with both Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles having been traded away, the only spare infielder left is Chris Getz, normally a second baseman and Yost's other bench option, with Maier and Pena.

"I'm not as good as Moose, but in an emergency, he can trust me in there," Pena said. "I'm not a Gold Glove, but I can stop and throw."

Maier, an outfielder, began in the Minors as a catcher but was switched to third base in his second year, 2004, in the Midwest League. In his pro career, he's played every position except shortstop.

"I played second base in one game at the All-Star Game in Cedar Rapids -- that's the only game at second I've played," Maier said. "Howie Kendrick was supposed to start and he got hurt, and they switched it around somehow and I was the one that got drawn out of the hat to play second."

Which of the two would Yost pick to play third base if necessary?

"Pena ain't that bad over there," Yost said. "I think I'd probably put Brayan over there first."

Preserving Duffy among Royals' priorities

KANSAS CITY -- Royals rookie left-hander Danny Duffy, combined between the Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City clubs, has thrown 124 2/3 innings, and he's nearing his limit of 150 for the year.

When Duffy gets close to that number, possibly around the time rosters are expanded on Sept. 1 and pitchers can be added to the roster, the Royals plan to shut him down for the season to preserve his valuable left arm.

Duffy made his 16th start in Tuesday night's 9-7 loss to the Yankees but lasted just three-plus innings, running up 90 pitches and giving up eight runs in that time.

"He threw the ball good; his command was not good," manager Ned Yost said. "He got hit in the calf [with a batted ball in the second inning], and I think that had something to do with it. He was different from that point on. I even had Nate [Adcock] warming up in the third inning because I didn't know if it was affecting him or not."

No decision has been made on who will replace Duffy in the rotation, but right-hander Vin Mazzaro, who is 5-2 with a 4.72 ERA in 18 starts for Omaha, is one possibility.

Yost expects better percentage on steals

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals were still tied with the Yankees and leading the American League in stolen bases through Tuesday, each with 120. But manager Ned Yost noted that the success has diminished a bit.

"It's tailed off -- it's 71 percent; 75 percent is acceptable," Yost said. "We strive for 80 because we think we're a club that's going to have use that athleticism and aggressiveness and smarts to win baseball games."

The Royals entered Wednesday successful on 61 percent (14-for-23) of their attempts in August. With so many rookies, mistakes happen. In one recent attempt, for example, Johnny Giavotella was nabbed going at the wrong time.

"This is, like everything else, a learning year where everybody's got a green light unless we take it off," Yost said. "And we don't take it off very often because we're trying to find out which guys are capable of stealing bases in situations, which guys need to work, which guys can see keys, which guys can't see keys, how we can teach them to be better so we can get to that 80 percent mark when we're in a spot to compete."

Basestealing and taking extra bases on hits are essential for the Royals' success, in Yost's view.

"We're not going to be team like the Yankees that are going to hit three-run homers," Yost said. "We're going to have to get ourselves in scoring position and get base hits. We're going to have to do it the old-fashioned way."