KANSAS CITY -- The scuffling A's offense got a much-needed reinforcement on Friday with the return of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes was reinstated from the disabled list prior to Friday's 2-0 loss to the Royals -- after being on the DL since May 12 with a strained muscle in his left hand.
Before the injury, Cespedes was hitting .245 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 28 games. Despite not playing since May 6, Cespedes entered Friday as Oakland's second-leading RBI man.
"[Cespedes is] really a true No. 4 hitter for us," manager Bob Melvin said. "Not that the other guys that we've mixed in there don't do a good job. I think that he is a true legitimate four hitter. ... I think he certainly gets your attention, whether he's swinging the bat well or not, because he's a threat every time up with his power. So it really is nice to have him back."
Cespedes batted fourth for the A's -- going 0-for-4 in another poor offensive showing by Oakland -- and was in left field for the first time after playing all of his previous 28 games in center. He also was picked off at first by Royals starter Felipe Paulino after reaching on a fielder's choice in the fourth.
Cespedes said he played left field a lot in Cuba and was tested early in this one on a first-inning Mike Moustakas single to left. The ball fell right in front of Cespedes and drove in a run. Melvin said he thought Cespedes might have misjudged the ball.
"One ball it looked like he didn't have a great read on, but whether or not he gets to it I don't know," Melvin said. "That's the thing about playing left field, is the slice off the left-handed bat will sometimes fool you a little bit. But, again, I don't think he gets to it."
Melvin said Cespedes needs to get acclimated to being in left field.
"It's going to take some time for him to feel really comfortable," Melvin said. "He was working hard today early and before batting practice. It's different when you're working in batting practice than it is in the games. He had three games to work on it in Sacramento, and everybody said he looked pretty comfortable out there."
Coco Crisp, who played center field in Cespedes' absence, played there again Friday night.
Cesepdes' bat is a welcome addition to a lineup that badly needs to start hitting. Cespedes, with coach Ariel Prieto translating, said he's going to try to encourage his teammates and help the team anyway he can.
Fellow outfielder Seth Smith spoke about the importance of having Cespedes back in the lineup.
"It'll be good to get a guy who has legit power in there. Any pitch swinging, he can hit it out of the park," Smith said. "Just having a good bat in the lineup will be good for us."
McCarthy set to face Royals on Saturday
KANSAS CITY -- Entering Friday's action in Kansas City, the Oakland probable pitchers list was full of question marks. Before the game, though, manager Bob Melvin filled in the blanks in his rotation.
According to Melvin, Brandon McCarthy will come off the disabled list and start Saturday's game against the Royals. McCarthy has been on the 15-day DL with a strained right shoulder and hasn't made a start since May 17.
"We're planning on that," Melvin said. "He threw his bullpen [session], felt great. I don't think he's going to do anything taxing [Friday] that would jeopardize that. ... He's scheduled to start [Saturday]."
Lefty Tommy Milone is scheduled to finish up the series with the Royals on Sunday. Then the A's head home, where Jarrod Parker and Travis Blackley will start the first two games of a series with the Rangers.
Blackley will make his second straight start after moving to the rotation. He's appeared in four games for the A's so far this season after coming over from the Giants. He's allowed just one earned run in 11 innings with Oakland.
Smith slotted in two-hole against Royals
KANSAS CITY -- When outfielder Seth Smith showed up at Kauffman Stadium for the series opener with the Royals on Friday, he saw something new this season: his name listed second in the A's lineup.
Smith hit in the two-hole for the first time this year, and while he hadn't done it yet for Oakland, he did have plenty of experience in that spot. Smith entered Friday as a .271 career hitter when batting second with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.
Smith didn't fare too well in his debut as the No. 2 hitter, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in the A's 2-0 loss.
"I did it in Colorado, so I've done it before," Smith said. "Really, where I hit doesn't matter. If that presents a different challenge or situation, I'll attack accordingly. I've hit in all nine spots in my career."
Manager Bob Melvin said he likes Smith as a No. 2 hitter because of his ability to get on base.
"I think that's a good spot for him at times. He walks a lot. He's on base quite a bit," Melvin said. "Even though he's hitting .220 or so, he's on base over .350. You want your guys at the top of the lineup to get on base."
The last time Smith batted second before Friday? That was June 5 of last year, when Smith was with Colorado. He went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts against the Giants.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.