9/23/2013 9:34 P.M. ET
Yost revels in piloting big games late in season: 'It's 'fun'
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- It's a refreshingly different managerial scene this season for the Royals' Ned Yost.
In his previous seasons with the Royals, at this time of year, at least when the opponent is not in the race, Yost would be using callups from the Minors with a view to the following season.
"You get to a point where, if you're not competing, you're still developing. And if you get to a point where you're competing, development is out. Now you're winning," he said.
And in the Wild Card chase, he's using his regulars and is prone to make quicker hooks of pitchers to maximize matchups and to strategically employ pinch-hitters or pinch-runners more often.
"We're managing for today, we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow," Yost said. "It's absolutely a postseason approach. It's been like that since we started playing Detroit, Cleveland, the teams we can make ground up on. I told Pete [hitting coach Pedro Grifol]: 'It's time for us to turn into wartime consiglieres. It's time to go -- take no prisoners.' You gotta go, you gotta win every single night."
Earlier in the season, Yost took the precaution of resting his regulars or his bullpen pitchers at times so they would be fresh as possible down the stretch -- just in case. Now that's the case and the managerial juices are flowing.
"It's fun. The excitement and stress is fun," he said. "You wish it could be easier -- you always want life to be easier. I wish we could have a five-run lead every day, but I know that's not going to be the case."
In the Royals' 15 games prior to arriving here, they were playing teams still in the hunt for something -- Detroit, Cleveland and Texas. The last seven games, three at Seattle and four at Chicago, are against teams out of the running, but Yost expects no quarter.
"Everybody's got pretty much the same code of ethics. You play your best guys against teams that are still in it," Yost said before the series opener against the Mariners. "That's what they're doing -- we're seeing the same lineup we saw two weeks ago. They've got their best guys in there."
Drama king: Maxwell has played the part before
SEATTLE -- The pitch that Justin Maxwell managed to lift out of the shadows on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium certainly pushed him into the bright light of focus for Kansas City fans.
It doesn't get much more dramatic than a 10th-inning grand slam, off former Royals closer Joakim Soria no less, to beat the Rangers, 4-0, and keep KC's playoff hopes alive.
Maxwell has been a bit under the radar since being acquired from the Astros on July 31, although he made a fine early impression with a pinch-hit, 12th-inning home run to beat the Mets on Aug. 3 at New York.
Grand slams are part of his past, too. His first Major League hit was a pinch-hit grand slam for the Nationals on Sept. 11, 2007, at Florida. He hit a walk-off slam for the Nationals against the Mets on Sept. 30, 2009, the season's last home game at Washington.
"Google it. It's on YouTube. I've watched it a bunch on YouTube," Maxwell said with a grin after his wallop closed the Kauffman Stadium season. "My son has watched it on YouTube, too."
Kauffman's late afternoon shadows, which crossed between the mound and the plate, presented a problem.
"With the shadows there, I was trying to get ready early and I'd never faced Soria before. But I knew, with the shadow there, the ball was going to jump on me, so I was just trying to get ready a little earlier," he said.
The 3-2 pitch landed 421 feet away near the Royals Hall of Fame.
Maxwell revealed a little secret -- he sometimes watches his earlier wallops before games.
"A lot of guys like to watch themselves do well; they call it kind of like a highlight reel before you go out on the field, so you leave the locker room on a positive note," he said. "So you always want to see yourself doing well. So I think that helps a little bit."
Maxwell also told a little story about a bases-loaded situation in April this year with the Astros that didn't turn out very well. He remembered that his 4-year-old son, Jaidon, made his daily request for a home run.
"Right before I got out of the car that day, he says, 'Dad, I want you to hit a grand slam,' and that night, sure enough, I came up with the bases loaded," he said. "I had like a big swing, tried to do too much, the ball was in the box and I tried to hit it and it hit my hand and broke it."
The broken hand put him out for 51 games.
Maxwell has enjoyed the atmosphere since the get-go with the Royals.
"Like how much fun they had in the clubhouse and the dugout, how they kept it loose with what they were playing for," he said. "And I think that's the way to go about it. When you're uptight and nervous all the time, you're not going to do your best. So you try to keep a relaxed clubhouse and a relaxed dugout and try to have some fun."
Dinged Shields on target for final regular-season start
SEATTLE -- James Shields' right elbow is OK, and he's set for his final regular-season start on Friday against the White Sox.
"He's a little sore, a little bruised, he's fine," manager Ned Yost said. "It got him pretty good, though. But he was going to battle through that, no matter what."
When Shields was drilled in his elbow by David Murphy's liner as he led off the Rangers' third inning on Sunday, Yost feared the worst: His staff leader would be done for the day.
"I was initially worried because it sounded like you threw a ball against that wall," Yost said, pointing. "You could tell it hit bone."
However, he tried to remain upbeat, at least outwardly. While head athletic trainer Nick Kenney checked Shields' elbow, Yost walked up to the mound and was confronted by a line of his infielders -- Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Emilio Bonifacio and Eric Hosmer.
"I looked at 'em and said, 'What are you guys doing? Fixin' to take a team picture?' " Yost said. "And they laughed and they go, 'No, we're worried, Skip.' I said, 'Don't worry, he'll be all right.' And he was."
Only after tossing a couple of way-high warmup tosses that increased the concern.
"But the pitches had life on them -- shhh-zing, they had life on them," Yost said. "I don't know if he read my look or what, but he looked at me and said, 'I'm fine. I just need to get my release point down.' "
He did with a few more tosses. Between innings, Kenney put heat packs on Shields' elbow and kept it moving. Shields went on and completed eight innings of the Royals' 10-inning, 4-0 win.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.