7/6/2014 6:40 P.M. ET
Aoki putting work in before rehab assignment
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Royals outfielder Nori Aoki chased balls belted around right field by coach Rusty Kuntz on Sunday morning at Progressive Field and then got busy packing his bags.
That was an indication that everything went well and Aoki, on the disabled list with a groin strain, was heading to join Double-A Northwest Arkansas for a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
Aoki has not played since June 20 and no timetable has been set for his return to the Royals.
"I really haven't heard much about it," Aoki said. "I just want to get some at-bats and play some games. In terms of drills and practice, I feel great and I've just got to bring that into the game now."
Royals sign veteran Downs to bolster bullpen
CLEVELAND -- Veteran left-hander Scott Downs was signed by the Royals on Sunday to fill a specific role in the bullpen.
"Situational lefty," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a guy that can help bridge the gap in the seventh inning, help us match up and get to Wade [Davis]."
To make room for Downs, the Royals optioned right-hander Casey Coleman to Triple-A Omaha.
Downs, 38, was released by the Chicago White Sox on Thursday after going 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in 38 games. Not good numbers.
"They were pretty good against left-handed-hitting," Yost said.
Indeed, Downs this season held left-handed batters to a .224 (11-for-49) average and his career mark against lefties is .219 compared to .273 versus right-handed batters.
Downs said that the 13 unintentional walks he issued in his 23 2/3 innings for the White Sox this year were his main problem.
"Walks -- that does it. Not throwing strikes," Downs said. "When you're facing one guy and you don't get him out and he ends up scoring -- there's your numbers. ... Your ERA is shot for the year."
Downs joins left-handers Francisley Bueno and Bruce Chen in the bullpen, neither considered to be a situational lefty. Nor was Tim Collins, now sharpening his skills with Triple-A Omaha, a lefty specialist.
In fact, Yost couldn't remember having what he considered a situational lefty in his Kansas City tenure.
"I don't know that we've had one," he said.
Downs, in 13 years, has a 38-38 career record and a 3.57 ERA in 602 games (50 starts). Prior to the White Sox, he pitched for the Blue Jays, Angels, Expos, Cubs and Braves. From the University of Kentucky, he was a third-round pick by the Cubs in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft.
"He's a good left-on-left guy," Yost said. "He's a durable guy that can use three or four days in a row to come in and get an out or two outs."
Yost wasted no time getting Downs into action. He pitched the seventh inning of Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Indians, retiring all three batters. That included two lefties, Jason Kipnis (flyout) and Michael Brantley (groundout), and switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera (strikeout).
Downs has morphed into the situational lefty role in recent years.
"The good thing about that role is that the game is always on the line at some point when you come in," Downs said. "When you're pitching at this level, that's what you want. You want to come in when the game's on the line. That's what's fun. That's what you play for."
Coleman departed after his only outing since being brought up on Wednesday for the second time this season. He gave up a run, two hits and a walk in a one-inning appearance in Saturday night's 7-3 loss to the Indians.
Bringing on Downs at age 38 after last Monday's signing of 42-year-old outfielder Raul Ibanez is an indication of the Royals' determination to reach the playoffs this year.
"Well, yeah, we're trying to improve our club any way we can," Yost said.
Gordon, Butler get break in finale with Tribe
CLEVELAND -- Alex Gordon had started in left field in all but one of the Royals' previous 86 games, so he was given a break for Sunday's series finale against the Indians.
Gordon was replaced in the starting lineup by Raul Ibanez, who played left field and batted fourth.
In addition, designated hitter Billy Butler who had been in all 86 games (five times as a pinch-hitter in Interleague Play) also was out of the lineup. Danny Valencia took his spot as DH.
Omar Infante, who returned to the lineup on Saturday night, was replaced at second base by Christian Colon.
Manager Ned Yost said Infante's back, which caused him to miss Friday night's game, was fine, but the Royals were being cautious because of the quick turnaround to a day game. Yost also wanted to give Infante's back an extra day of rest before being exposed to the artificial turf at the Rays' Tropicana Field.
Royals sign Janish to Minor League contract
CLEVELAND -- Infielder Paul Janish, who has played six years in the Majors, has been signed by the Royals and is playing for Triple-A Omaha.
Janish, 31, spent four years with the Reds and two with the Braves primarily as a backup, and batted .214 in a total of 431 games. He was released by the Rockies on Tuesday after batting .234 in 67 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Royals also announced that infielder Pedro Ciriaco had accepted an outright assignment to Omaha. He was designated for assignment last Monday and had cleared waivers.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.