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Royals notebook: Hillman says he never doubted Guillen would produce

ST. LOUIS | It’s six weeks and counting now since Royals outfielder José Guillen kicked his season into gear by going three for three on May 7 in a 9-4 victory over the Angels at Kauffman Stadium.

Guillen entered Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals with an 11-game hitting streak and on a .390 binge in 38 games since that night against the Angels. He also had 18 doubles, eight homers and 38 RBIs in that span.

“I’m the same guy,” Guillen said. “I know a lot of people were worried about me early in the season. But I’m a veteran player. I know what I can do.”

Manager Trey Hillman says he never doubted Guillen would come around.

“He hit .290 and almost drove in 100 runs last year,” Hillman said. “It’s the same American League. He’s pretty familiar with the pitchers he’s going to face. And the confidence he brings.

“He’s said it many times. He not only said it to (reporters), he said it to (hitting coach Mike Barnett) and he said it to me: `Don’t worry about me. I’m going to hit.’ And he has, and he will. As the season goes on, I think he’ll just continue to hit.”

Guillen’s 11-game streak entering Wednesday matched a career high set in 2003 while playing for the Reds. His current pace, even with his slow start, projects to 25 homers and career-high 121 RBIs.

“It’s good to see the confidence level with which he can perform,” Hillman said. “That’s part of what we need more of from the other guys.”

Mahay’s role

Veteran lefty Ron Mahay solidified his role as one of the club’s primary setup relievers by working a one-two-three eighth inning in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory.

“The way he carried him confidently with a lead into the eighth inning,” Hillman said, “that’s probably as good as I’ve seen Ronnie all season.”

Mahay is 2-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 29 appearances. His 34 2/3 innings leads all relievers.

Hillman said Mahay would share eighth-inning duties with Ramon Ramirez until Leo Nuňez returns from the disabled list. Nuňez isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.

“Everybody can do that,” Mahay said. “I guess it matters in who is coming up.”

Park conditions

The smaller dimensions of Busch Stadium prompted Hillman to keep speedy outfielder Joey Gathright out of the starting lineup for a second straight game.

David DeJesus played center in place of Gathright, while Mark Teahen shifted back to the outfield and Ross Gload played first base.

“This ballpark is a little more conducive to a little less speed,” Hillman said. “You’ve got gaps at 375 (feet) instead of 385. I feel comfortable with our coverage with David in center.

“I think Ross plays a really good first base. Hopefully, he can give us some key hits.”

Gload went one for four Tuesday and scored the Royals’ first run in a 2-1 victory.

Gathright is likely to return to more-regular duty when the Royals return to more-spacious Kauffman Stadium for a nine-game homestand that begins Friday with the first of three weekend games against the Giants.

Minor details

Reliever Joel Peralta pitched three scoreless innings Tuesday night in Class AAA Omaha’s 3-0 loss at Round Rock.

Peralta has not allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings over four appearances since being optioned June 7 to the minors. He has allowed just two hits and one walk in that span while striking out eight.

Looking back

It was 24 years ago Thursday — June 19, 1974 — that Steve Busby pitched the second of his two career no-hitters in a 2-0 victory at Milwaukee. Busby retired the last 24 hitters after issuing a leadoff walk to George Scott in the second inning.

The game last 2 hours, 3 minutes and was attended by just 9,019 at County Stadium.

Etc.

Reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta turns 35 on Thursday. After a rough start, Yabuta has allowed just two runs in his last 14 2/3 innings over 14 appearances.

Royals pitchers entered Wednesday’s game with a collective four hits in 19 at-bats. Thursday’s series finale is the final game this season for the Royals without a designated hitter. Their nine remaining interleague games are all at home.

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