The Royals regained their primary set-up reliever Monday afternoon when they activated Leo Nuñez from the disabled list after clearing roster space by optioning Joel Peralta to Class AAA Omaha.
“What I’d like to do,” manager Trey Hillman said, “is ease (Nuñez) back into it instead of just sticking him back immediately into that eighth-inning role.
“I’d like to utilize him in the sixth, maybe the seventh. But he’ll end up being back (in the eighth inning) at some point in time.”
Nuñez, 24, returns nearly eight weeks after suffering a strained muscle in his upper back in a May 27 appearance against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium. He was 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 21 appearances when injured.
“My arm feels good,” he said. “There’s no problem with my back. I’m ready to go.”
Peralta, 32, is 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA in 24 games but was the odd-man out primarily because he has options remaining. This is the third time this season he has been optioned to Omaha.
“It’s unfortunate for Joel,” Hillman said, “but he’s the guy who has options. I was really impressed with his last outing. He was locating the ball much better. He was much more of the pitcher that I had heard about before I joined the Royals.”
Nuñez made five minor-league rehab appearances but hasn’t pitched since a six-up, six-down outing last Thursday for Class AA Northwest Arkansas against Arkansas.
Bannister stays put
Struggling right-hander Brian Bannister remains in the rotation — for now — despite allowing 24 runs and 29 hits in 19 1/3 innings over his last four starts.
“We’ll continue to evaluate it,” Hillman said. “He knows he needs to be better. It’s been discussed. There’s a plan to help him get there. We’ll see how he does in his next outing.”
Bannister’s next start is Friday against Tampa Bay. He is 4-8 with a 6.49 ERA in 17 starts since mid-April.
“The real issue the whole time,” he said, “is how I pitch out of the windup versus the stretch. My pitches don’t have the same angle and the same movement as they do out of the windup. I can feel it coming out of my hand. I’m doing something wrong.”
Opposing hitters are batting .245 against Bannister with the bases empty but .344 with runners aboard. He also has a 52-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio with the bases empty but just 21-18 with men on base.
“I’m an above-average major-league pitcher out of the windup,” he said, “and a very below-average major-league pitcher out of the stretch. It can’t be that way.”
Guillen plays, Teahen sits
José Guillen returned to the starting lineup, in right field, for the first time since the All-Star break. Guillen remains bothered by back spasms, but he entered Sunday’s game in Chicago as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and finished the game in left field.
Mark Teahen got the night off after going two for 14 with five strikeouts in the three-game series against the White Sox. His average is down to .248.
“He hasn’t been swinging the bat very well,” Hillman said. “We’ll give him a day off and let him work on some things.”
Rehabbing lefty John Bale pitched around two singles Monday in a scoreless first inning in Omaha’s 1-0 victory over Round Rock.
Bale threw 14 strikes in 20 pitches in his first consecutive-games test. He also worked a scoreless inning on Sunday against Round Rock.
Right-hander José Capellan replaced Bale and completed the shutout by yielding just three singles in eight innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Capellan, 27, appeared in 99 big-league games over the last five seasons with the Braves, Brewers, Tigers and Rockies.
Omaha won the game on Mike Stodolka’s walk-off homer.
•The Royals carry an 18-13 record against left-handed starters into Tuesday’s game against Tigers veteran Kenny Rogers.
•The first 20,000 fans at Tuesday’s game get a free Frank White powder-blue jersey. White will also sign autographs from 5:30-6:15 p.m. atop the Royals’ dugout.
•Former Royals captain Mike Sweeney turns 35 on Tuesday. He is currently on Oakland’s disabled list after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both knees in May. Sweeney was batting .292 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 40 games before his injury.