The squeaky carousel that is second base in the Royals’ lineup reclaimed Chris Getz when he was recalled Thursday from Class AAA Omaha in anticipation of being activated prior to Friday’s game against Detroit.
The Royals also recalled reliever Kelvin Herrera from Class AA Northwest Arkansas in hopes he can help shore up a leaky bullpen. He, too, is expected to be activated prior to Friday’s series opener at Kauffman Stadium.
Both players were sent last month to the minors because of poor performance. The Royals cleared space for the moves by optioning second baseman Johnny Giavotella and reliever Everett Teaford to Omaha.
“Getzie has been swinging the bat really well down there,” manager Ned Yost said. “It’s like when we brought Johnny up. Johnny was swinging the bat really well. We’re just going with hot hands right now.”
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Giavotella had hits in his first three at-bats after arriving June 30 from Omaha but thereafter went four for 31. Getz batted .313 in 14 games for the Storm Chasers after opening the year at .214 in 47 big-league games.
“In fairness to (Giavotella),” Yost said, “he only had 35 at-bats. I understand that. But we’ve got to go. It’s time to go. We want to make sure we’ve got as many hot guys in that lineup that we can get in it.”
Herrera is returning from a second demotion to the minors wrapped around 29 big-league appearances in which he went 3-5 with a 5.20 ERA.
He appeared in seven games in his latest minor-league tour, the latter two earlier this week at Northwest Arkansas in order to keep pitching during the Triple-A All-Star break. He permitted two runs overall in 13 1/3 innings.
“He’s a quality major-league reliever who struggled,” Yost said. “He’s gone down. He’s got himself back on track. He’s throwing the ball well. Boom. Let’s see what happens.”
Herrera opened the season as the club’s primary eighth-inning setup reliever for All-Star closer Greg Holland but lost that duty after yielding eight homers in a 15-inning span.
Yost said Herrera would share set-up duties with Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Luke Hochevar as the bridge to Holland.
“I’ll kind of mix and match.” Yost said. “I’ll kind of go on match-ups in the seventh and eighth innings. But will he fit in with those guys to get us to Holland? Yeah.”
Teaford made just one appearance, covering two-thirds of an inning, following his July 13 recall from Omaha. That was last Sunday, when he permitted an inherited runner to score before retiring the next two hitters.
The Royals’ bullpen, viewed in the context of the entire season, has been an undeniable strength in compiling a 3.02 earned-run average that ranks second to Toronto (2.90) among American League clubs.
But that unit, which has worked fewer innings than any other AL bullpen, is also largely responsible for the Royals’ streaky nature.
“That’s why you get on runs and don’t get on runs,” manager Ned Yost said. “You get on runs when guys are coming in and getting the job done. You’re not on runs when what happened (in Cleveland) happens.”
What happened last weekend in Cleveland is three straight losses, which included two rough outings by Collins — although he wasn’t helped in either case by Crow and Teaford.
“You go through stretches like that,” said Collins, whose ERA jumped from 2.02 to 4.86 over his last 11 outings. “Even if you make good pitches, they can still hit them. That’s really all that is happening.”
It isn’t just Collins.
The bullpen had a 2.63 ERA through June 17, when the Royals climbed back to .500 at 34-34 with a 2-1 victory in Cleveland. That capped a 13-5 run that followed an eight-game losing streak.
Tellingly, it sports a 3.89 mark over the club’s current 9-15 slide, which includes a five-game skid as it enters Friday’s game against Detroit at Kauffman Stadium.
Some bullet points:
The final loss in that eight-game skid was May 29 and occurred when Crow blew a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning by allowing four runs to the Cardinals in St. Louis. Crow called it the worst outing of his career.
The bullpen permitted 11 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings (5.60) in that eight-game slide, which boosted the unit’s ERA to 3.26 — its highest point since mid-April.
The bullpen worked three scoreless innings the next night, May 30, in a 4-2 victory that ignited the 13-5 surge. That was the rainy night-into-morning victory that Greg Holland closed out after 3 a.m.
The relief corps was lights out in the 18-game recovery that carried the Royals back to .500: five earned runs in 47 innings, a 0.96 stretch that lowered the unit’s season-long ERA to 2.63.
Since then: 33 runs in 76 1/3 innings (3.89). Take away Holland’s continued excellence (one run in nine innings in that span), and the bullpen’s ERA is 4.28 over the last 24 games.
Ciriaco to Omaha
The Royals secured outright waivers on infielder Pedro Ciriaco and assigned him to Class AAA Omaha. The move came two days after they acquired him in a waiver claim from San Diego
Ciriaco, 27, had not been previously outrighted in his career, which meant he did not have to right to refuse the assignment. Players have the right of refusal after they have been outrighted once.
General manager Dayton Moore previously characterized Ciriaco’s acquisition as one of adding “depth” to the organization.
Ciriaco batted .228 this season in 51 games, primarily as a backup, for the Padres and Boston Red Sox. He was designated for assignment last Friday by the Padres less than a month after they acquired him from Boston.
Rehabbing right-hander Felipe Paulino is scheduled for a full bullpen workout prior to Friday’s game to test a sore shoulder that interrupted his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his elbow.
“I feel good,” he insisted. “What they really want to see is how my shoulder feels the day after my bullpen. That’s the only concern. My back (an earlier ailment) is fine. And my elbow is fine.”
TV ratings surging
Ratings for the Royals this season on Fox Sports Kansas City are up 43 percent over 2012. That’s the biggest percentage increase for any club in the majors.
FSKC is averaging a 5.8 household rating, which put it on a record pace. It also reports that 11 of its 16 prime-time telecasts in June drew the market’s highest rating for that night.
All-Star closer Greg Holland will sign autographs from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday at the Majestic Team Store at Kauffman Stadium.
The session is free, but fans will be limited to two autographs on each time through the line. The store opens at noon.
Former All-Star reliever Aaron Crow will hold a similar session from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rally House in Independence. Same rules: Free admission but fans are limited to two autographs each time through the line.
Kansas City natives Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle and Jason Sudeikis will join other celebrities Friday for a Whiffle Ball game — dubbed the “Celebrity Classic Game” — at the Little K beyond the left-field wall.
Gates to the ballpark open at 5 p.m. for the 5:30 p.m. game. Since the Little K offers limited seating, fans are encouraged to come early.
Friday is also a Buck Night. Hot dogs, small Pepsi products and small bags of peanuts are available all night for $1 apiece. A fireworks show will follow the game.
It was 27 years ago Thursday — July 18, 1986 — that Royals manager Dick Howser was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Third-base coach Mike Ferraro was appointed as interim manager.
The announcement came three days after Howser guided the American League to a 3-2 victory in the All-Star Game at the Astrodome in Houston. He succumbed to the cancer on June 17. 1987.