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Royals notebook: Trade brings utilityman from Cubs for player to be named later

DETROIT | OK, it’s a low-risk move. Even so, it’s worth noting the Royals’ first step this month, which ends with the non-waiver trading deadline, is to add a player rather than sell someone off.

Monday’s acquisition of outfielder/third baseman Ryan Freel from the Chicago Cubs, at minimum, figures to inject a little more speed and versatility into a struggling and injury-thinned attack.

“Historically, he’s been a tough out,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “We look at him as an upgrade for us compared to where we are.

“He might be a little below speed-wise from what he was, but he’s a high-energy guy with a reputation for playing hard. He’s versatile and athletic.”

Still, Freel was also designated for assignment last Thursday by the Cubs after getting just four hits in 28 at-bats following his May 8 acquisition from Baltimore for former Royals outfielder Joey Gathright.

The Royals surrender a player to be named later but receive sufficient cash from the Cubs to cover most of $2 million remaining on Freel’s contract.

Freel, 33, has a .269 career average in 576 games over eight seasons with 22 homers and 119 RBIs. He has 143 career steals, including 100 for the Reds from 2004 to 2006.

“We’ll see how his legs are,” manager Trey Hillman said. “I spoke to him (Monday), and he said he’s 100 percent health-wise. His history shows he’s got the ability to steal bases; he’s got lateral range and speed.”

Freel’s physical condition is a key issue. A torn right hamstring limited him to 48 games last season at Cincinnati, and he missed much of this season while playing for the Orioles and Cubs because of a concussion and a strained left hamstring.

The Royals anticipate adding Freel to their 25-man roster before tonight’s game against the Tigers at Comerica Park. To do so, they must clear space by making a corresponding roster move.

Freel, a right-handed hitter, spent the six previous seasons with Cincinnati before a Dec. 9 trade sent him to Baltimore with third baseman Brandon Waring and second baseman Justin Turner for catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash.

Problems started this season for Freel on April 20 when he was hit in the head by a pickoff throw at second base at Boston. He was eventually diagnosed as suffering a concussion.

Freel didn’t play again for the Orioles before moving on to Chicago, where he battled a sore left hamstring for about two weeks before a May 28 move placed him back on the disabled list.

The Royals scouted Freel when he went 10 for 24 in a seven-game rehab assignment at Class AAA Iowa. He played just four games after rejoining the Cubs, going one for 10, prior to being designated for assignment.

“He can definitely be an option in center field,” Hillman said. “Especially with our big ballpark, if his speed plays out the way we hope it does, he gives us more lateral range regardless of where we use him.

“And, hopefully, he’ll give us more options to do some things on the basepaths.”

Endorsing Greinke

Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander brushed aside the suggestion that he deserves consideration to start the All-Star Game for the American League.

Verlander said Royals pitcher Zack Greinke deserves the honor.

Greinke, Verlander and Toronto’s Roy Halladay project as the AL’s top starting candidates for the July 14 game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Updating Gordon

Third baseman Alex Gordon went zero for two with three walks Monday in Class AA Northwest Arkansas’ 11-7 victory at Corpus Christi.

Gordon is seven games into a rehab playing assignment as part of his recovery from April 17 surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right hip. Plans call for him to rejoin the Royals after the All-Star break.

Gordon joined the Naturals on Sunday after playing four games at Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League and one game at Class AAA Omaha. He is five for 16 with nine walks in seven games.

Ponson, Davies win

Veteran right-hander Sidney Ponson pitched eight scoreless innings Monday afternoon in Omaha’s 2-0 victory at Oklahoma City. He permitted six hits, all singles, in a tidy 91-pitch effort.

Ponson had a 2.42 ERA through five starts on a rehab assignment while recovering from a strained right elbow.

•Kyle Davies won his third straight start Sunday for Omaha since his June 20 demotion but wasn’t as sharp as in his previous two. Although he allowed just one run in five innings, he threw 89 pitches and walked four in a 4-1 victory at Oklahoma City. Davies has a 0.47 ERA after permitting just one run in 19 innings in his three starts.



•Rehabbing reliever Doug Waechter began his rehab assignment Sunday by pitching a one-two-three inning after replacing Davies. Waechter is recovering from a strained left oblique.



Looking back

It was 30 years ago Monday -- July 6, 1979 -- that the Royals purchased the contract of a 26-year-old submarining reliever named Dan Quisenberry from Class AAA Omaha.

Quisenberry made his big-league debut two days later and went on to compile 238 saves in 10 years for the Royals. He was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 1988, just a few months before his death from cancer.

Etc.

•Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau was picked as the American League player of the week _ a week that included going three for 10 with two homers in three games against the Royals.



•Birthday wishes today to catcher John Buck, who turns 29.



•Detroit starter Armando Galarraga matched a season high with seven strikeouts. He had struck out seven or more just five times in 46 career starts. Four of those have come against the Royals.



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

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