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Royals unsure how to handle Hosmer's return

8/24/2014

By Andy McCullough

By Andy McCullough

McClatchy-Tribune

To manager Ned Yost, the hand injury that has felled first baseman Eric Hosmer creates a situation marked by both risk and uncertainty.

The risk involves Hosmer re-injuring his hand before his stress fracture has properly healed. The uncertainty arises because Yost cannot be sure what sort of player Hosmer will be upon his return.

The team expects Hosmer to undergo another X-ray on his hand when the Royals come back to Kansas City on Monday after this 10-day trip. If the fracture is completely healed, he can begin a hitting program. The exercises required before Hosmer rejoins the actual team could last weeks.

"You get one shot at this," Yost said. "We bring him back too early, and that (fracture) opens up again, he's done for the year. So you make sure that it's in a good spot. And then you start cranking him up again."

The trouble is, by the time Hosmer is ready for live action, the minor-league seasons are expected to have ended. The team cannot even send him to games at their complex in Surprise, Ariz., Yost said. And Yost expects Hosmer to be "rusty."

"There's probably not going to be any rehab scenarios for him," Yost said. "I don't know what I'm going to do there."

Plus, there is the matter of playing time. Handling first base has invigorated Billy Butler, who had slumped all season as the designated hitter. And Josh Willingham has been a quality replacement at DH.

So Yost still wants to use Hosmer this season. But he does not know when he can. And he does not know when he will be able to do so.

Perez returns to action

Despite the inflammation in his right knee, Salvador Perez is not expected to see his playing time behind the plate decrease. Yost insisted he had no plans to use Perez as the designated hitter more often down the stretch.

Perez started at catcher against the Rangers on Friday night.

An MRI on Thursday revealed no structural damage in the joint. Perez sat out Wednesday's game against the Rockies. Trainer Nick Kenney sought to assuage Perez's worries, Yost said.

"Look, Nick's got a handle on all this," Yost said. "He just does it to double-check it and give the player peace of mind."

Downs making progress

Lefty reliever Scott Downs (neck stiffness) is eligible to return from the disabled list. But with the 25-man roster full, it is unlikely he will be activated before the roster expansion on Sept. 1. Until then, he is making progress in his recovery, Yost said.

Downs is slated to throw a session of live batting practice when the team returns from this road trip Monday. He could be utilized as a lefty specialist during the season's final month.

Down on the farm

The Royals extended their player development contracts with Idaho Falls and Wilmington ( through 2016 and Lexington through 2018 and their working agreement with Burlington (Appalachian) through 2016.