An ailing back kept second baseman Mark Grudzielanek out of the Royals’ lineup for the second straight game Monday _ and could keep him on the bench for an extended period.
“He’s just got some irritation in the lower back,” manager Trey Hillman said before Monday’s series opener against Colorado at Kauffman Stadium. “We’ve got to be careful with it. It isn’t anything new.
“We could have forced the issue (Sunday) and played him. Actually, it’s a little more tender (Monday). So he’ll stay inside and get treatment.”
Grudzielanek, 37, has a history of lower-back problems in recent years. It is uncertain what triggered this renewed irritation, but indications suggest he might not return to action before Friday’s game against the Cardinals.
Mike Aviles shifted from shortstop, as he did Sunday, to fill Grudzielanek’s vacancy at second base. Tony Peňa made a second straight start at shortstop. Peralta returns
Monday brought another bullpen shuffle when Jeff Fulchino was optioned to Class AAA Omaha and replaced by veteran Joel Peralta.
Fulchino, 28, allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings over five appearances since arriving June 7 from Omaha to replace a struggling Peralta. Fulchino allowed four runs and seven hits in three innings Sunday in an 11-10 victory over the Giants.
“It was a situation not necessarily of being disappointed with Fulchino,” Hillman said, “other than (not) being able to get the ball in the strike zone (Sunday). Overall, we’re pretty pleased with what he did.
“It’s just the simple need that we have as far as making sure we’re protected for this series _ and specifically for (Monday’s) game. We’ve gone through the bullpen quite a bit.”
Peralta, 32, was 0-2 with a 5.64 ERA in 18 games before his demotion. He also allowed seven homers in his last 15 1/3 innings.
“He left both fastballs and secondary pitches out over the plate,” Hillman said. “He’s just got to be able to locate and get ahead in the count. I know he can do that. Before this season, he had a pretty good history over the past couple of years of being able to do that.”
Peralta pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings in six appearances at Omaha with 13 strikeouts and one walk.
No revenge factor
Royals reliever Ramon Ramirez harbors no ill feelings at being traded by the Rockies late in spring training. Colorado eventually got lefty Jorge De La Rosa as the player to be named later in the deal.
“I’ve got a lot of friends over there,” Ramirez said, “but I’ve got to do my job. They know that, too.”
The Royals have no regrets over the trade. Ramirez has become one of their top setup relievers, compiling a 3.09 ERA and nine holds in 34 appearances.
De La Rosa is scheduled to start tonight’s game against Zack Greinke. De La Rosa is 2-3 with a 5.22 ERA in 10 games for the Rockies.
Billy Butler entered Omaha’s game Monday at New Orleans with a .366 average in 24 games since his May 29 demotion to Omaha. He also had a .438 on-base percentage and a 1.051 OPS.
“He’s doing everything that we wanted him to do,” general manager Dayton Moore agreed. “We’ll get him up here when we can. But it’s not something that, probably, is going to happen (today) or the next day.”
“That’s a fair question,” Moore said. “It’s ultimately my responsibility to find an opportunity for him.”
•Colorado second baseman Jeff Baker was picked as the National League player of the week after going 10 for 23 with four homers in six games.
•The Cardinals say veteran left-hander Mark Mulder could make his first big-league start since August in this weekend’s series at Kauffman Stadium. He is recovering from a second rotator-cuff surgery.
•With Colorado playing for the first time Monday at Kauffman Stadium, Atlanta becomes the only major-league franchise never to play in Kansas City. The Royals have played in every National League city except Washington, although they did play the Nationals when they were based in Montreal and known as the Expos.