While the Royals look for a way out of a ten game skid, other players are working their way back from injuries.
Felipe Paulino was placed on the DL before the season started and helped Luis Mendoza and Danny Duffy stick in the big league rotation. He had a strained right forearm and is making a rehab start for Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday, according to Bob Dutton.
I’d expect that Paulino will make a start for Omaha as well before the Royals determine when to make a switch. Duffy has pitched well in two starts before some struggles in Sunday’s game, but his ERA overall is 3.63 and his average fastball velocity is rivaled only by Stephen Strasburg so far this year. Mendoza, on the other hand, has had two rough starts, walking nine in 13 innings and giving up 24 hits. He may have two more starts to convince the Royals he’s actually changed and that his 2011 wasn’t a mirage. You know my thoughts on the matter.
The more immediate good news is that Lorenzo Cain is close to returning. After a fine running catch in Oakland, Cain strained his groin, landing on the DL. He made his first rehab appearance Sunday for Northwest Arkansas and Dutton reports that he’s tentatively set to return on Friday when the Royals will be in Minnesota.
Cain was hitting .133 through four and a half games when he hurt himself, but after a strong spring, he may be the answer to the Royals problems in the top of the order. So far, Ned Yost has used a mix of Yuniesky Betancourt, Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar and Jeff Francoeur in the top two spots in the order. Cain isn’t a traditional leadoff hitter, but his speed would play well there. He’d also be a good bat between Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer – two lefties – at the top of the order.
His return would also help out by adding offensive potential with great defense. In his absence, the Royals have played a rotation of Jarrod Dyson (who misplayed some balls in two games of the Cleveland series) and Jason Bourgeois while Mitch Maier has gotten the most work. None of the three are seen as consistent regulars, though Maier has filled that role in the past. They’re all better suited to being late inning replacements for defensive or pinch-running purposes.
Blake Wood may be ready to return soon to reinforce a bullpen that has been heavily taxed early on in 2012. His return would help since Greg Holland was placed on the DL after his awful appearance on Friday night. Joakim Soria, of course, is out for the year, while Manuel Pina and Salvador Perez both have a way to go to recover from meniscus surgeries.