HOUSTON | The Royals perhaps tipped their hand Wednesday regarding a starting pitcher for Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh by limiting veteran left-hander Bruce Chen to two innings and 23 pitches in Class AAA Omaha’s 7-5 loss at Memphis.
“He’s certainly a candidate for Saturday,” manager Trey Hillman said, “but we don’t have anything definitive yet.”
The Royals want to hold off on any official move until they learn the results of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Thursday afternoon on reliever Kyle Farnsworth’s right groin.
Farnsworth needed to be helped from the field Wednesday night after suffering a groin injury while making a pitch to Houston’s Pudge Rodriguez. Farnsworth was walking unaided by the end of the night but acknowledged he remained in pain.
“It’s still pretty sore and tight,” he said. “I looked at the video. I thought it was when I pushed off, but the video shows it happened when my leg was up top.”
The Royals trimmed their staff to four starters last Saturday by optioning Kyle Davies to Omaha prior to activating reliever Robinson Tejeda from the disabled list. An open date Monday alleviated the need to replace Davies in the rotation until Saturday against the Pirates.
The two leading candidates appear to be Chen and rehabbing right-hander Sidney Ponson, who was 1-5 with a 7.27 ERA earlier this year in 11 games, including six starts.
A strained right elbow forced Ponson to the disabled list after a May 29 relief appearance against the White Sox. He has made two rehab starts at Omaha and is tentatively scheduled to start again Friday at Memphis.
Chen, 32, allowed one hit, a homer, while striking out two Wednesday in a no-decision. He is 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 14 games overall but 3-0 and 1.67 ERA in his last seven outings.
The Royals signed Chen to a minor-league contract in spring training. He spent most of last season recovering from elbow surgery. He was 35-37 with a 4.63 ERA in 242 games, including 112 starts, over the 10 previous seasons with nine big-league teams.
Left-hander Danny Duffy will be the Royals’ lone representative among the 50 minor-league players selected Thursday to participate in the All-Star Futures Game on July 12 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Duffy, 20, is 6-2 with a 2.85 ERA in 13 starts at Class A Wilmington with 66 strikeouts and 20 walks in 72 2/3 innings. He pitched one scoreless inning Tuesday for the Carolina League All-Stars in their 2-1 loss to the California League All-Stars in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
The Royals selected Duffy in the third round of the 2007 draft. He was the Midwest League pitcher of the year last season after going 8-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 starts for Class A Burlington.
On to Pittsburgh
The Royals played four series in Pittsburgh over the first five years of interleague play, but Friday marks their first visit to PNC Park since 2001. The teams did meet in 2006 at Kauffman Stadium, when the Royals swept three games for a 12-8 lead in the all-time series.
This weekend’s series concludes the Royals’ interleague schedule.
The projected pitching matchups:
Friday: RHP Gil Meche, 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA, vs. Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton, 0-0 and 3.00, at 6:05 p.m. Central time.
Saturday: TBA vs. Pittsburgh LHP Pat Maholm, 4-4 and 4.48, at 6:05 p.m. Central time.
Sunday: RHP Zack Greinke, 9-3 and 1.90, vs. Pittsburgh RHP Ian Snell, 2-8 and 5.36, at 12:35 p.m. Central time.
Class AA Northwest Arkansas reliever Greg Holland was added to the North Division team for the Texas League All-Star Game as a replacement for injured Tulsa pitcher Samuel Deduno.
Holland, a right-hander, is 3-2 with five saves and a 2.53 ERA in 20 games. He joins four other Naturals and pitching coach Larry Carter for the July 1 game in Frisco, Texas. Previously selected: infielders Corey Smith and Kurt Mertins and outfielders Jordan Parraz and Cody Strait.
The Royals selected Holland, 23, in the 10th round of the 2007 draft.
It was 35 years ago Friday -- June 26, 1974 -- that Paul Splittorff matched a club record by pitching a career-high 12 innings in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at then-Royals Stadium.
The only run against Splittorff was a game-tying homer by Dick Allen in the ninth inning. The Royals won the game in the 12th when Frank White scored from second base on Hal McRae’s one-out single against Goose Gossage.
A Royals pitcher has worked 12 innings on five occasions: Dick Drago and Roger Nelson in 1972, Splittorff and Al Fitzmorris in 1974, and Steve Busby in 1975.
Alberto Callaspo batted third in the starting lineup for the first time in his career. Hillman said the decision caused the least disruption to the lineup when he opted to start Mike Jacobs at first base over Billy Butler.
The Royals entered Thursday’s series finale in search of their first road sweep since Sept. 22-24, 2008 at Detroit.
Birthday wishes on Friday to shortstop Luis Hernandez, who turns 25.
Wednesday’s comeback victory marked was just the second this season in 37 games when the Royals trailed after eight innings. The other was May 19, when they scored four runs in the ninth inning in a 6-5 victory over Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium