Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has been here before, mired in an extended slump, and that experience provides perspective and reassurance as he seeks a return to form.
“I struggled for a while last year but was able to battle back,” said Moustakas, who went hitless Monday in four at-bats and is batting just .167 in 28 games since July 23.
“I want to see if I can do that again this year. It’s all about getting comfortable in the box. I just haven’t been where I want to be for a while. I’m just trying to get back to where I’m putting good swings on the ball.”
Moustakas batted .182 with one homer and 11 RBIs in his first 53 big-league games last season before mounting a strong closing kick that saw him finish at .263 with five and 30 in 89 games.
It’s been different this season. He started strong (his average stood at .310 in mid-May) before leveling and now plummeting. His overall totals: a .246 average with 19 homers and 60 RBIs in 117 games.
“The thing is,” Moustakas said, “I’ve got to take a step back and remember it’s my first full year in the big leagues. I’ve still got a lot to learn. I’m still going at this as a rough sketch, and I’m trying to learn on the fly.
“It’s a tough league to get used to, and it’s unforgiving. There are a lot of great pitchers, and it’s just about making adjustments. I’ve just got to keep battling and trying to make those adjustments.”
Right-hander Vin Mazzaro returned Monday from Class AAA Omaha to provide a fresh arm to a bullpen that worked 141/3 innings over the three previous days.
The Royals cleared space by optioning right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who threw 28 pitches in Sunday’s loss, to Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Sending Jeffress to Northwest Arkansas will, effectively, permit the Royals to circumvent the rule that requires optioned players to remain in the minors for 10 days. He will be able to return after the Naturals’ season ends next Monday.
Omaha is assured of postseason play after winning its divisional pennant.
This is Mazzaro’s fourth recall this season from the minors, and he was 3-3 with a 6.12 ERA in nine previous big-league games. He was 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 22 games at Omaha, where he has been pitching recently as a reliever.
Left-handed pitcher Bruce Chen got a brief scare when he tumbled to the ground in right field during batting practice after stepping on a ball. He remained down while examined by assistant trainer Kyle Turner.
Chen eventually got to his feet and tested his right ankle by hopping up and down a few times before walking from the field, accompanied by Turner, without assistance.
Best sign that it wasn’t serious: Chen took a lot of verbal abuse from teammates for being such as klutz as he left the field.
A no-bull pen
This is a coincidence, certainly, but the Royals’ bullpen owns a 1.94 ERA in 26 games since shuffling roles following the July 31 trade that sent former closer Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati for two minor-league pitchers.
Coincidence because, well, Broxton can hardly be characterized as a problem after compiling a 2.27 ERA in 35 games and recording 23 saves in 27 opportunities.
Still, the bullpen has allowed just 16 earned runs in 742/3 innings while racking up 79 strikeouts. It is also 5-0 with 14 holds and saves in 16 opportunities.
Minor awards I
Omaha placed outfielder/third baseman Wil Myers and left-handed pitcher Ryan Verdugo on the All-Pacific Coast League team.
The 11-member team includes one player at each position, one left-handed pitcher, one right-handed pitcher and one reliever. It was determined through a vote by PCL managers and media representatives.
Myers, 21, is batting .296 and has 22 home runs and 73 RBIs in 92 games since his May 17 promotion from Northwest Arkansas. His overall totals: .309 with 35 homers and 103 RBIs in 127 games.
Verdugo, 25, is 12-3 with a 3.37 ERA in 25 games, including 22 starts. Opponents are batting just .218 against him, and he has 116 strikeouts in 131 innings.
Minor awards II
Class A Wilmington shortstop Orlando Calixte was picked as the Carolina League player of the week for Aug. 20-26 after going 10 for 26 in seven games.
Calixte, now 20, is one of the organization’s recent Caribbean bonus babies. The Royals shelled out $1 million to sign him exactly two years ago Tuesday as a free agent in the Dominican Republic.
Calixte opened this season at Class A Kane County and is batting a combined .264 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 119 games.
The induction of former groundskeeper George Toma into the Royals Hall of Fame highlights the promotional calendar for a 10-game homestand that begins Tuesday with the first of three games against the Detroit Tigers.
Toma will become the 25th member of the club’s Hall of Fame in an on-field ceremony prior to Friday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. He was the Royals’ head groundskeeper from 1969 through 1995.
The first 10,000 fans attending Saturday’s game will receive a set of Moose-takas antlers, in honor of third baseman Mike Moustakas, courtesy of the Kansas City Zoo.
Moustakas will also greet the winner of the ongoing promotion to find “Moooose call” prior to the game.
It was 32 years ago Tuesday – Aug. 28, 1980 – that Rich Gale’s club-record streak of winning decisions as a starter ended at 11 in a 10-6 loss to Texas at then-Royals Stadium.
Gale, now 58, went 11-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his 12 previous starts after opening the season at 2-7 with a 5.10 ERA in 14 games. He finished 1980 at 13-9 with a 3.92 ERA.
The club record for consecutive winning decisions is 12 by reliever Doug Bird from Sept. 1, 1975 to July 28, 1977.
Alex Gordon has nine RBIs in 11 games since shifting from first to third in the lineup.
Gordon also recorded his 11th outfield assist of the season when he threw out Cody Ross at second base in the third inning. Jeff Francoeur, who didn’t play Monday, leads the majors with 15 outfield assists.
Johnny Giavotella had two of the Royals’ seven hits and has hits in five of his last 13 at-bats. He is seven for 30 in eight games since his recall from Class AAA Omaha.
The Red Sox won the season series 4-3.