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Royals notebook | Olivo ticketed for regular duty even after Buck returns

Don’t look for catcher Miguel Olivo to surrender playing time, at least initially, when John Buck rejoins the Royals from the disabled list.

Olivo took advantage of regular playing time in June to produce one of the best months of his career -- batting .295 with club-leading totals of eight homers and 17 RBIs. His .692 slugging percentage was the highest among any American League player with at least 30 at-bats.

It’s no surprise, considering the Royals’ run-starved attack, he was selected earlier this week as the club’s player of the month.

“I’m hitting the ball well,” Olivo said, “because I’m not thinking too much. That’s what I was doing earlier in the year. I was always worrying about when I was going to get a breaking ball and whether I was going to strike out.”

The strikeouts are still there.

Olivo whiffed 25 times last month in 80 plate appearances. That makes 63 strikeouts in 194 PAs -- or nearly one-third of the time.

“It’s pretty amazing that he’s gotten his batting average up to where he has,” manager Trey Hillman said. “He is getting better pitch recognition rather than just trying to guess what pitch (the pitcher) is going to throw.”

Olivo is batting .258 after going hitless in three at-bats Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. But he has a club-leading 12 homers with 32 RBIs.

“He’s hit some secondary pitches,” Hillman said. “They weren’t in a quality location, but he’s hit them for home runs. He’s not just hitting fastballs.”

Buck roughly split time with Olivo prior to suffering a herniated disk on May 30. Buck is expected to return within a week. What happens then?

“It’s tough to sit a guy down who is leading the team in home runs,” Hillman said, “especially considering how inefficient we are in scoring runs. To take that guy and put him on the bench doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

“We’ll just have to see how it plays out, but I don’t want to take that production out of the lineup. At the same time, I don’t want John Buck to be just a backup either.”

One solution is for Olivo to draw some time as the designated hitter, perhaps against left-handers in place of left-handed-hitting Mike Jacobs.

“I would say there’s a very good chance,” Hillman said, “that in some way, shape or form that we’ll get his bat in there a majority of the time.”

Memento for Buehrle

Chicago pitcher Mark Buehrle saved the ball by throwing it out of play when he retired Mark Teahen on a grounder to second base in the eighth inning.

And no wonder. Teahen had two hits earlier in the game and, before that out, was 22 for 49 in his career against Buehrle.

“I asked him if he would sign the ball,” Buehrle said. “I finally got him out.”

Teahen will likely comply -- at some point. Not Thursday.

“It’s not the best night for jokes,” he said. “I didn’t even see him save the ball. I was ticked off that I got out. But from the dugout, he was showing me the ball (after the inning) and asking me if I would sign it.

“I know him. We have the same agent. We’ve hung out a little bit off the field.”

Tracking Gordon

Rehabbing third baseman Alex Gordon played five innings at third base Wednesday night in his last rehab game at Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League. Gordon walked in all three of his plate appearances.

Gordon is scheduled to serve tonight as the designated hitter for Class AAA Omaha against New Orleans before shifting Saturday to Class AA Northwest Arkansas. He remains on track to rejoin the Royals after the All-Star break.

The Royals are limiting Gordon to one game at Omaha because the O-Royals embark Saturday on a nine-game trip to Oklahoma City and New Orleans.

Gordon is recovering from April 17 surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right hip. He concluded a four-game stay at Surprise with two hits and five walks in 12 plate appearances.

•Outfielder Coco Crisp was transferred to the 60-day disabled list in order to open a space on the 40-man roster. He underwent season-ending surgery June 24 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.



Minor details I

Third baseman Corey Smith of Class AA Northwest Arkansas was picked as the most valuable player Wednesday in the Texas League All-Star Game after going two for three in the North’s 2-1 victory in Frisco, Texas.

Smith, 27, is batting .252 for the Naturals with 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 75 games. He signed with the Royals as a minor-league free agent on Nov. 20, 2008 after spending last season in the Angels’ organization.

Northwest Arkansas second baseman Kurt Mertins drove in what proved to be the winning run with a two-out single in the eighth inning. It was Mertins’ only at-bat. Center fielder Cody Strait struck out in his only at-bat.

Minor details II

Left-hander Lenny DiNardo is Class AAA Omaha’s lone selection to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team, which will play the International League All-Stars on July 15 at PGE Park in Portland, Ore.

DiNardo, 29, is 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA and two saves in 16 games for the O-Royals. He was signed by the Royals as a minor-league free agent on Dec. 20, 2008 after spending the two previous seasons in the Oakland organization.

Looking back

It was 22 years ago today -- July 3, 1987 -- that Dick Howser Day was held at then-Royals Stadium. Howser’s No. 10 was retired, and he was inducted posthumously into the Royals’ Hall of Fame between games of a 6-4 and 5-4 sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Howser died June 17, 1987 from complications resulting from a brain tumor.

It was just two years ago today _ July 3, 2007 _ that Billy Butler became the youngest player in more than 11 years to have six RBIs in a game when the Royals beat Seattle 17-3 at Kauffman Stadium.

Butler was 21 years, two months and 14 days old when he had his six-RBI game. The last player to do that at a younger age was Alex Rodriguez at 20 years, nine months and 20 days on May 17, 1996 in Seattle’s 14-13 loss at Baltimore.

Etc.

•The attendance of 17,964 boosted the Royals past one million for the season. They have drawn 1,017,012 for 43 home dates _ and average of 23,651 a game.



•The White Sox are 72-45 at Kauffman Stadium since the start of the 1995 season.



•Chicago closer Bobby Jenks has 21 career saves against the Royals. That’s his highest total against any opponent.



To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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