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Royals notebook | Gordon seeing results from short-and-quick hitting approach

Two hits Tuesday. Three hits Wednesday. It all amounts to positive reinforcement for Royals third baseman Alex Gordon as he seeks to adjust his approach at the plate.

He now keeps both hands on the bat, which effectively shortens his swing and -- in the theory goes -- enable his to be quicker to the ball.

“I was getting jammed a lot,” Gordon said. “I was breaking a lot of bats. That’s been an emphasis _ to be short to the ball.”

Gordon wasn’t in the starting lineup Thursday because the Royals continue to ease him into regular duty while he recovers from hip surgery. He spent three months on the disabled list before returning after the All-Star break.

“He’s never going to tell you when he’s sore,” manager Trey Hillman said, “but I think he’s a little bit sore.”

Gordon made the switch just over a week ago and promptly went hitless in 11 at-bats last weekend at Tampa Bay. That dropped his average to .183 and extended his streak to 12 games without an extra-base hit since returning from a three-month absence following hip surgery.

“He’s back in spring training mode, basically,” hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. “When he came back, he was trying too hard and muscling it and getting big and getting long (in his swing).

“So there are two things: Shorten him up and keep him loose. That would allow him to stay inside the ball better and speed his hands up. He was breaking bats on balls right down the middle that he should be killing.”

Gordon had two singles Tuesday against the Mariners, followed by his first three-hit game Wednesday in more than a year -- July 28, 2008 at Oakland. Even more encouraging was a line-drive homer in the fourth inning.

“Keeping two hands on the bat is giving him a shorter route to the ball,” manager Trey Hillman said. “It’s taken a little of the raw power away, but he didn’t even square that one up on the good part of the bat. So it was good to see that one get out.”

It was Gordon’s first homer since opening day, but he is already expressing self-caution in attempting to generate power.

“When you’re up there,” he said, “you never try to hit a home run. You try to stay short and go up the middle. All singles. Home runs just happen.”

Gordon is batting .313 since his return from the disabled list. That has his average up to .232 after a one-for-21 start that preceded his April 17 surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right hip.

“It’s a little better,” he said. “Just getting the repetition up here and getting comfortable is definitely helping. That comes with playing games and at-bats. I think it’s getting better.”

Cruz to DL; Waechter activated

The Royals placed struggling reliever Juan Cruz on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right shoulder prior to Thursday’s series finale against Seattle at Kauffman Stadium.

Reliever Doug Waechter was activated from the disabled list as Cruz’s replacement.

Cruz, 30, has a 6.17 ERA in 43 games and has been remarkably ineffective since mid-May -- allowing 29 earned runs and 36 hits in 28 innings over 27 appearances. He gave up one run and three hits in two innings Wednesday in an 11-6 loss to the Mariners.

“Shoulder inflammation,” Hillman said. “(He’s had it) off-and-on on occasion, but it hasn’t been anything with any consistency. We’ll let it calm down and see if we can get him back to full strength.”

Waechter, 28, worked a scoreless inning Thursday for his first big-league outing since April 17. He initially went to the disabled list because of a strained right elbow but subsequently suffered a strained left oblique while on a rehab assignment.

“He gives us a different look in our bullpen,” Hillman said. “Hopefully, he’s someone we can go to to get the outs we need to get to (Soria).”

Waechter completed a 30-day rehab assignment last Sunday at Class AAA Omaha, where he allowed 10 earned runs and 20 hits in 17 2/3 innings in 12 appearances.

Extra time to talk

Negotiations between the Royals and pitcher Aaron Crow, their first-round draft pick, no longer face an Aug. 17 deadline. Talks can now continue until one week before the 2010 draft.

The policy change, first reported by Baseball America, occurred after Major League Baseball and the players union reached an agreement that eliminates the Aug. 17 deadline for players selected from Independent League teams.

Crow pitched this season for the Fort Worth Cats of the American Association after failing to sign last year when picked by Washington as a junior at Missouri.

“We’re working under different timelines, but we’re still working with him and expect to get something done,” said J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager and scouting director.

“We just have to keep making progress. We’re obviously not on the same page right now, but we’re working to get there.”

The only other player affected is pitcher Tanner Scheppers, whom the Rangers selected in the supplement round.

The Aug. 17 deadline still applies to the Royals’ unsigned second and third picks, high school catcher Wil Myers and college pitcher Chris Dwyer.

Cat’s up?

The cat that darted around the field in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game has a new home. It was adopted by a Royals employee who wishes to remain anonymous.

Rehab updates

Gil Meche is now slotted for 80-90 pitches in a second minor-league rehab start Saturday for Omaha against Las Vegas.

“We’ll try to get his pitch count up a little bit,” Hillman said. “I think that will make him feel more comfortable, and I know it will make us feel more comfortable.”

Meche threw 67 pitches Monday in his first game action since muscle spasms in the lower left side of his back forced him to leave a July 11 start in Boston after 3 2/3 innings.

“Physically if he’s OK (after Saturday),” Hillman said, “we’ll get him right back into the rotation.”

Reliever Kyle Farnsworth tested his strained right groin in another pre-game bullpen session. He will throw again Saturday and, barring complications, then resume his rehab assignment.

New-look lineup

Hillman sent out a lineup Thursday that had backup catcher Brayan Peña batting cleanup and speedy Josh Anderson making his Royals’ debut in right field.

Peña has never started a big-league game as a cleanup hitter, but Hillman saw no attractive alternative after choosing to move slumping Mark Teahen -- four for his last 29 -- out of the spot.

“I really couldn’t come up with any better candidate who was going to give us a better at-bat,” Hillman said. “I went with who I thought would give us the best at-bat, provided we had men on.”

Peña carried a .358 on-base percentage into the game, including a .389 mark with runners in scoring position. He initially thought teammates were playing a joke when they told him he was batting cleanup.

“Then I saw the lineup,” Peña said, “and I was hitting fourth. I asked (special-assignment coach Eddie) Rodriguez to see if it was serious. He told me, yeah and to be ready.”

Anderson seems likely to get regular duty in center field, but Hillman opted for what he viewed as an easier initial assignment.

“It’s the biggest center field in the major leagues,” Hillman said, “and it’s his first game with the Royals. It’s an obvious pressure situation for him, and I wanted to reduce the tension a little bit.”

Mitch Maier started in center.

Here come the A’s

The Royals get a look at another last-place team when the Oakland A’s arrive tonight for a three-game weekend series that marks their only appearance of the season at Kauffman Stadium.

The A’s swept a two-game series when the teams played May 12-13 in Oakland.

The weekend promotional highlights include post-game fireworks tonight, a Frank White Hall of Fame figurine giveaway Saturday to the first 20,000 fans, and a chest-protector backpack giveaway Sunday to the first 10,000 fans under age 15.

Here are the projected pitching matchups:

•Tonight: RHP Brian Bannister, 7-7 with a 3.59 ERA, vs. Oakland RHP Vin Mazzaro, 2-8 and 5.73, at 7:10 p.m.



•Saturday: RHP Zack Greinke, 10-7 and 2.36, vs. Oakland LHP Brett Anderson, 6-8 and 4.20, at 6:10 p.m.



•Sunday: RHP Luke Hochevar, 6-4 and 5.40, vs. Oakland LHP Gio Gonzalez, 3-2 and 6.31, at 1:10 p.m.



Looking back

It was 11 years ago today -- Aug. 7, 1998 -- that José Offerman extended his hitting streak to 27 games by getting hits in both games of a double-header loss to New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.

The streak ended the following day when he went zero for three with a walk in another loss to the Yankees. The 27-game streak remains the second longest in franchise history. George Brett had a 30-game streak in 1980.

Etc.

•The eight runs were the Royals’ biggest output since July 11, when they suffered a 15-9 loss at Boston.



•Billy Butler’s homer extended his career-best total to 13. His 54 RBIs are one shy of his career high. He went seven for 11 in the three games against the Mariners and raised his average to .294.



•Adrian Beltre contributed four singles to Seattle’s 12-hit attack.



To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his news updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.

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