The Royals filled one of their two biggest needs just before Wednesday’s nonwaiver trade deadline by obtaining outfielder Justin Maxwell from Houston for minor-league pitcher Kyle Smith.
Maxwell, 29, hit 18 homers last season in 124 games but has been limited this year by injures — a broken left hand and a concussion. He is batting .241 with just two homers and eight RBIs in 151 at-bats in 40 games.
“I don't really know much about Kansas City,” Maxwell told The Associated Press, “but I’m excited The season didn't go the way I wanted it to, but I still have a chance to finish it out strong.”
Maxwell is expected to join the club before Thursday’s series finale against the Twins. The Royals must make a corresponding roster move to accommodate him.
“It provides outfield depth,” manager Ned Yost said. “It gives us another bat off the bench. It gives us another option against left-handed pitching. It’s as simple as that.”
Yost said Maxwell, who will wear No. 27, will likely start Thursday against Twins left-hander Scott Diamond. Neither Yost nor general manager Dayton Moore tipped their hand as to the likely space-clearing move.
“We’ll have to look at it,” Moore said. “We don’t have to make that decision until (Thursday).”
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain and second baseman Chris Getz are battling injuries. Yost indicated he hoped neither would require time on the disabled list. He also said the club is unlikely to clear space by shortening its bullpen.
Smith, 20, was the Royals’ fourth-round pick in 2011. He was 5-4 with a 2.85 ERA this season in 19 starts at Hi-A Wilmington and was ranked as the organization’s No. 12 prospect before the season by Baseball America.
“He’s going to progress well,” Moore said, “and he’s going to be a major-league pitcher some day.”
The Royals also sought to acquire a second baseman before the 3 p.m. deadline. They inquired into several possibilities but failed to find an acceptable deal.
“We were looking to upgrade in as many ways as we possibly could,” Moore said. “There wasn’t a move we could make at this particular time, but we’re going to continue to look to get better.”
Trades are still possible but all players involved must clear waivers.
Moore said the Royals approached the deadline in an acquisition mode and didn’t seriously seek to trade pitcher Ervin Santana, who will be a free agent after the season.
“We were never really in the mindset where we were going to detract from this team,” Moore said, “especially with how well we’ve played going into the second half.
“We’ve felt this was a very talented group of players, and we wanted to do everything we could to try to enhance this team to give us the best chance to win going forward.”
Maxwell is 6 feet 5 and 220 pounds. He suffered the broken hand when hit by a pitch in late April. He then suffered a concussion suffered in late June while attempting a diving catch in right field.
He returned to action just before the All-Star break.
“We think he’s going to be a strong contributor for us,” Moore said. “He hits left-handed pitching, and he plays all three outfield positions well. He’s very athletic. He complements our entire outfield group.
“The other part of the deal is he’s a player we have under control for the future as well. He helps us today, and he helps us for the future as well.”
Maxwell is making $492,500 and is under club control through 2016.
Cain undergoes MRI
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on his sore left groin after tightness returned Tuesday night when he attempted to get loose in the later innings of the series opener.
“No tears; the results were great,” he said after Wednesday’s 4-3 victory. “No damage. No tears; that’s the big thing. Now, it’s just day to day and make sure I’m ready to go.”
Cain did not take part Wednesday in any on-field work but said he expected to do so before Thursday’s series finale.
“I wouldn’t call it a setback,” he said. “It was just a little tightness. So we just took an extra day. It’s better to take an extra day than an extra two weeks.
“I’m going to be on the field (Thursday). I don’t know if I’ll play, but we’ll see how it feels.”
Cain first experienced the tightness after he slammed into the center-field wall Saturday night in Chicago after making a catch. He appeared to be recovering on schedule until late Tuesday.
Other injury updates
Second baseman Chris Getz, in contrast to Cain, appears close to game-ready after aggravating a sore left knee Saturday while attempting to turn a double play in the ninth inning of a 1-0 victory over the White Sox.
Even so, Yost said Getz isn’t likely to play until Friday, when the Royals open a three-game weekend series against the Mets in New York.
The Royals closed July at 15-10 for their third winning month of the season. They were 14-10 in April before plummeting to 8-20 in May and rebounding to 16-11 in June.
The last time they had winning records in three of the season’s first four months was 2003, but that team had losing records in August and September.
The last time the Royals had four winning months in a season was 1994, although that counts 6-4 in August before a strike ended the season. The last time they did it in a full season was 1989.
Right-hander Kyle Zimmer surfaced as a subject of possible trade rumors when he didn’t take his normal start Tuesday night for Class AA Northwest Arkansas at Arkansas.
The Royals simply skipped Zimmer, their first-round pick in the 2012 draft, for a turn in the Naturals’ rotation as a means to provide some rest in his first full pro season.
It’s a normal move within the organization for young starters. Zimmer, 21, did not allow a run in 12 innings over his first two starts at Northwest Arkansas following his promotion earlier this month from Hi-A Wilmington.
Veteran utilityman Irving Falu reached a dubious milestone Tuesday when he went three for five in Class AAA Omaha’s 4-1 victory at Tacoma.
With his first hit, he became the second player in Omaha history to reach 600 hits. At 602 and counting, he entered Wednesday’s game trailing all-time leader Jed Hansen by 60 hits.
Hansen played parts of eight seasons at Omaha from 1996-2004.
It was 20 years ago Thursday — Aug. 1, 1993 — that Royals owner Ewing Kauffman passed away from complications related to bone cancer. He was 76.
It was six years ago Thursday — Aug. 1, 2007 — that manager Buddy Bell announced he would finish the season but not return in 2008. He took over the club on May 30, 2005 and guided it to a 174-262 record.
Royals’ longest winning streaks
|16||1977||Aug. 31-Sept. 15|
|14||1994||July 23-Aug. 5|
|9||2003||March 31-April 12|
|8||Eight times||Sept. 2-8, 1995*|