ANAHEIM, Calif. — It didn’t take long for former Royals catcher Jason Kendall to abort his attempted comeback at Class AA Northwest Arkansas. A slight twinge in his surgically-repaired right shoulder made for an easy decision.
“I didn’t blow it out,” he said, “but I knew the next time, my shoulder would be done. I wouldn’t be able to pick up my kids or have a normal life.”
Kendall, 38, announced his retirement Tuesday prior to the Naturals’ game against Tulsa. He played just two games, getting one hit in three at-bats, after agreeing last Thursday to a minor-league contract.
“I owed it to myself to try it,” he said. “I didn’t want to get 10 years down the road and wonder what would have happened. I did things the way I wanted my whole career, and I had to try this.”
The comeback came nearly two years after a major shoulder injury forced Kendall to the disabled list. Multiple surgeries followed, which delayed his efforts to resume his career.
“I worked my butt off to get to this point,” he said, “and I appreciate the Royals for letting me do this.”
Kendall was a three-time All-Star in a 15-year career with the Pirates, A’s, Cubs, Brewers and Royals. He batted .288 with a .366 on-base percentage in 2,085 career games. His 2,025 career games as a catcher rank fifth in history.
“Someone asked me what the highlight of my career was,” Kendall said. “Every day. I had the greatest gig I know. I had fun, and I don’t have a single regret.”
The Royals signed Kendall, a free agent, after the 2009 season to a two-year deal for $6 million in hopes that his experience and leadership could bolster a young club and, in particular, a young pitching staff.
“Jason Kendall was old school,” Royals designated hitter Billy Butler tweeted, “and played the game right (and) all while being a great dad. It was an honor to be your teammate. Great career.”
Kendall batted .256 with a .318 on-base percentage in 118 games in 2010 for the Royals before the injury forced him to the disabled list. A setback after the initial surgery forced him to spend all of last season on the disabled list.
The Royals employed Kendall earlier this year as a part-time coach and instructor while he continued his rehab efforts. Kendall said he expected to discuss a continuing relationship later Tuesday with general manager Dayton Moore.
“I want to stay in the game,” Kendall said, “and I’d like to stay with this club. Dayton is coming down here tonight (to Northwest Arkansas) to watch (left-hander Mike) Montgomery. I’m sure we’ll talk.”
Rookie left-hander Will Smith, who started Tuesday, appears positioned for an extended look in the Royals’ rotation. Club officials signaled that preference last week by shifting Everett Teaford to the bullpen after acquiring Jeremy Guthrie from Colorado.
“We want to see Will Smith continue to develop,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a 23-year-old left-hander who we think has a chance to be a solid back-end-of-the-rotation starter at the big-league level on a real good team.”
In short: Let’s find out.
Smith’s start against the Angels, his former organization, was his second outing since returning last week after the Royals created an opening in their rotation by designating Jonathan Sánchez for assignment.
The Royals recalled Smith after he went 3-0 in a four-start stretch at Class AAA Omaha while allowing just four runs in 27 2/3 innings. He also had 29 strikeouts and five walks in that span.
Smith gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings last Thursday in a 6-1 loss to Minnesota. That left him 1-3 with a 7.97 ERA in four career big-league starts – and left the Royals with a decision when, a day later, they got Guthrie from the Rockies in a deal for Sánchez.
“We could have sent Will back (to Omaha),” Yost said, “but we want to look at Will. We like what we’ve seen. We think he’s still got a lot of upside. Teaford is what Teaford is. He’s done fine, but he fits better in a long role right now.”
Note that last word: Now.
Angels ace Jered Weaver brings a 12-1 record and an American League-leading 2.20 ERA into today’s series finale against the Royals at Angels Stadium. Those numbers include eight scoreless innings and a victory over the Royals in the season opener.
Weaver has been as tough as anyone against the Royals in recent years: 4-0 in five starts over the last three-plus years while permitting only two runs in 36 1/3 innings while striking out 42.
That makes it hard to remember the Royals once seemed to have his number. Weaver lost four straight starts to the Royals in 2007-08. Overall, he is 6-4 with a 2.12 ERA in 11 career starts against the Royals.
Latest from the trade-rumor whispering wall: Yuniesky Betancourt could draw interest from Washington, which is seeking a backup middle infielder because an oblique injury is expected to sideline All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond for at least a month.
The Nationals appear satisfied with second baseman Danny Espinosa shifting to short while Steve Lombardozzi plays second, but they are interested in a backup capable of playing both positions.
Betancourt fits the mode of a short-term rental since he will make roughly $825,000 for the remainder of the season prior to becoming a free agent.
Left-hander Mike Montgomery’s struggles continued when he allowed six runs and nine hits in 51/3 innings for Northwest Arkansas against Tulsa.
Montgomery has allowed 15 runs and 20 hits in 172/3 innings in three starts since his demotion from Class AAA Omaha, where he was 3-6 with a 5.69 ERA in 17 starts.
Two anniversaries to mark Wednesday.
It was 13 years ago — July 25, 1999 — that George Brett was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Robin Yount and Nolan Ryan. How’s that for star power?
It was 11 years ago — July 25, 2002 — that the Royals acquired shortstop Neifi Perez from Colorado in a three-team deal that sent outfielder Jermaine Dye to Oakland. How’s that happen?