5/10/2013 12:12 A.M. ET
Royals' annual Yankees matchup on horizon
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- The Yankees make their annual visit to Kauffman Stadium this weekend for a brief Royals homestand.
This is a rivalry that got very intense in the American League Championship Series of 1976-77-78 (won by the Yankees) and 1980 (won by the Royals).
These days the Royals, trying to reach the playoffs for the first time in 28 years, try to treat the Yankees as just another team to beat.
"It's still a special aura -- it's the New York Yankees," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "But they've got to come and play the Kansas City Royals, so we really don't think of it much like that. We think of it as another team over there that we've got to beat."
"I've had my share of experiences with the Yankees," pitcher James Shields said. "Obviously I was in the East my entire career, and I faced them quite a bit. I'm very familiar with them. Right now I'm not concerned about who we're facing, I'm just concerned about winning ballgames. It'd mean a little more if it were September or October, but I'm just going to go out there and pitch my game."
Shields will oppose the Yankees on Saturday night in the middle game of the series.
It'll be a busy weekend for fans. The Royals will hold the first summer fireworks display after Friday night's game. The first 10,000 fans to arrive Saturday night will receive an MLB Network bag. In observance of Mother's Day on Sunday, the first 10,000 ladies will receive a pashmina scarf.
Yost shuffles batting order, and Royals respond
BALTIMORE -- It didn't take manager Ned Yost long to act on his idea to move leadoff hitter Alex Gordon into the third spot in the Royals' batting order. Twenty-four hours after Yost said he was considering it, it was done.
So Gordon was slotted No. 3 against the Orioles on Thursday night. Alcides Escobar moved to the top from second, and Lorenzo Cain moved from the lower portion to No. 2.
Billy Butler moved from third to No. 4, and Eric Hosmer dropped one slot to No. 5 followed by Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Jeff Francoeur and Chris Getz.
For the first try, things could not have gone better, as the Royals rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Orioles on Thursday night.
"It looked good," Yost said. "I mean, we broke out and hit some homers tonight, which was good."
Gordon and Hosmer both hit two-run homers, and Moustakas had a solo blast. It was the Royals' first three-home-run game of the season.
"I don't think it matters where anybody in this lineup hits," Gordon said. "I think we're going to stay the same hitter whether it's one through nine. I think we've got enough flexibility with every hitter that we can make some adjustments. Our offense was struggling, and we needed to change it up so that's what Ned did."
The hope, of course, was that this lineup would generate more runs that the previous configuration, which held through most of the 30 previous games.
"Did OK with it, did all right with it," Yost said before Thursday's game. "I just think the most important two spots we have in the lineup now should be manned by Gordy and Billy, three and four. Everything else is kind of interchangeable, matchups, who's producing.
"We wanted to give Esky a shot at the [No.] 1; he was successful at it in winter ball so he's got some experience with it. It makes sense. He's a kid that can bunt, he can steal, he can do some things."
Escobar batted leadoff in the offseason for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan League, where he hit .348 in 26 games with a .398 on-base percentage. He's batted first just four times in the big leagues, twice for the Royals and going 3-for-10.
Escobar's reaction when Yost approached him with the idea?
"I'll do the best I can. I've done it before. Let's do it," Escobar said before Thursday's game.
Escobar said that as a leadoff batter in Venezuela he looked at more pitches and drew some walks (seven).
"I like it, it's nice," Escobar said. "Honestly, I like No. 2 because I'm hitting No. 2 all the time. Now it's a little different. Let's see what happens."
Hitting third is old stuff for Gordon. This was his 167th career start in that spot, where he now has a .264 average, 21 homers and 94 RBIs. He has started as the leadoff man in 200 games, and his numbers are .307/29/112.
Cain batted second just three times in his injury-shortened 2012 season, so the change will be fairly new for him.
"The 2-hole, I kind of like Cain there a little bit," Yost said. "He's the best available. He's a run producer, and if Esky's on, if the bottom of the order is on and comes back around, I like our 1-2-3-4-5. It's got speed at the top, speed at the bottom and it's got the kind-of power guys there in the middle."
After Escobar and Cain, both right-handed hitters, the lineup alternates from left to right all the way through. That is designed to keep opponents less sure of when to make a pitching move.
Yost figures he will try this batting order for a while.
"I think this lineup has got some balance, got some sequence and the ability to score some runs," Yost said. "We'll see."
Royals pitchers express amusement with sunscreen report
BALTIMORE -- Two of the Royals' veteran pitchers seemed somewhat surprised and bemused by a report that use of a sunscreen to help grip the ball was widespread.
In fact, James Shields just laughed.
"I've never used sunscreen or any of that matter in my career," Shields said. "But I really don't know anything about that, to be honest with you. I am not aware of it at all."
The report by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! centered on Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, who denied use of an illegal foreign substance. Mixing sunscreen with rosin was the alleged recipe.
"The guy's throwing well, so they're trying to fish for something," the Royals' Bruce Chen said.
Chen said he used sunscreen to protect his arms for day games and during workouts, but said he never noticed it help him grip the ball.
"If I feel the ball is too sticky, I don't want it," Chen said. "I've never heard anything about sunscreen on anything."
In his time, though, he has heard some tales.
"I've heard stories of people putting Vaseline in between their teeth and under their lips and under their tongue and that's how they make the ball [do something]," Chen said. "Like dude, you gonna put Vaseline in there and swallow it?"
Royals send Minor Leaguer Wood to O's
BALTIMORE -- While the Major League teams were competing, the Royals and the Orioles made a Minor League deal Thursday.
The Royals sent third baseman Brandon Wood from their Triple-A Omaha club to the O's Triple-A Norfolk team in exchange for cash. Wood was a part-time player for the Storm Chasers, hitting .264 in 16 games with two home runs and seven RBIs.
Wood, a first-round Draft pick by the Angels in 2003, was in the Royals' Major League Spring Training camp. He batted .323 in 17 games.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.