Yost all in favor of Escobar's early bunts
Royals have decided advantage in games where they score first
KANSAS CITY -- When Alcides Escobar is batting second in the Royals' lineup, if the leadoff batter opens the first inning with a single or a walk, Esky is likely to put down a bunt, trying for a hit.
Anyone making a managerial critique might question if playing for one run in the first inning of an American League game is wise. While manager Ned Yost says he never gives a bunt sign in the first inning, he's not against Escobar's idea of bunting for a hit either.
"Do they know what our record is when we score first?" Yost asked, referring to critics. "When we score first we're 38-16. When [opponents] score first we're 11-49."
That's certainly a statistic to ponder and Yost has.
"So I think it would behoove us to score first any way that we possibly could. When Escobar bunts in the first inning, worst-case scenario is nine times out of 10 we're going to have a runner at second base with our three and four hitters coming up. Best-case scenario is we're going to have runners on first and second with nobody out and the three-four hitters coming up," Yost said.
"Now if he swings away, since he's a .300 hitter, the odds are he's probably going to make seven out of 10 outs, but that three times out of 10, is it beneficial to us if he hits a double or a single -- yes. But it's still beneficial to us to put a runner in scoring position to see if we can score first. That's what I don't have a problem when he bunts for a hit in the first inning."
Prior to Tuesday night's game against the A's, Escobar had put down a bunt four straight times after the leadoff batter, either Alex Gordon or Jarrod Dyson, had reached first base in the first inning. Each time he was bunting for a hit, but each time he failed, Escobar was thrown out and the official ruling was a sacrifice bunt.
That wasn't the intended purpose, but the runner was moved up and, on two of those four occasions, the runner scored and the Royals won each time.
"The whole object, according to the stats, is we need to score first any way that we can do it," Yost said. "It doesn't say score four runs first, it doesn't say score three runs first, it says score first. [When we do] our record is 38-16."
Royals officially sever ties with Betancourt
KANSAS CITY -- Infielder Yuniesky Betancourt's second term with the Royals is officially over.
Betancourt was placed on unconditional release waivers by the Royals on Tuesday. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 5 and the Royals had 10 days in which to trade him or release him.
The action on Betancourt, manager Ned Yost made clear that day, was taken in part because of the infielder's discontent over not getting more playing time. Yost also made an impassioned statement to reporters about the importance of team unity and building a winning culture after years of losing records.
Betancourt originally was obtained from the Mariners on July 10, 2009, in exchange for two Minor League pitchers and was the Royals' regular shortstop through the 2010 season. Then he was dealt to the Brewers along with pitcher Zack Greinke in a trade that brought the Royals four players, including current shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Last winter, Betancourt was a free agent and was signed by the Royals primarily to be a backup infielder, although he wound up splitting the second base job with Chris Getz. This year, Betancourt batted .228 in 57 games with seven homers and 36 RBIs.
Perez keeps runners at bay on basepaths
KANSAS CITY -- Catcher Salvador Perez is catching a lot of runners trying to steal.
Through Sunday, he'd nailed seven of the last 13 would-be thieves, which made him 8-for-20 or 40 percent, an excellent showing.
"Salvador is only going to throw out runners if the pitchers give him a chance," manager Ned Yost said. "And they've been doing a pretty good job of giving him a chance."
Pitchers help not only with good pickoff capabilities, but with quick deliveries to home plate.
"I always tell the pitcher to be careful with a guy at first base -- try to make it hard for the guy to steal, to give me a chance," Perez and.
Apparently they're listening. It helps, of course, that Perez has a very strong arm and is able to get off throws quickly, sometimes as fast as 1.8 seconds compared to the 2.0 seconds that Yost says is average.
"Salvy's an above-average thrower and, if we give him the opportunity, he's going to have above-average numbers in throwing runners out," Yost said. "Very seldom do they ever steal on a catcher."
Although Perez is tall for a catcher at 6-3, he's well-coordinated mechanically.
"He's very athletic for a big guy. His bottom half works tremendously with his upper half, his feet are very short and quick and in balance. His release is very short and quick and he's very accurate," Yost said.
Cain breaks up lefties hitting in eighth spot
KANSAS CITY -- Jarrod Dyson's sprained left ankle was healed but Lorenzo Cain, a right-handed batter, was in the Royals' starting lineup on Tuesday night against A's right-handed starter Jarrod Parker.
Recently, Cain had been batting primarily in the middle of the lineup, usually third or fifth.
"We moved him down to the eight-spot as pure protection. They've got four lefties in the 'pen. If you stack your lefties, it just makes it easier for them," manager Ned Yost said.
So he had Cain batting behind left-handed Eric Hosmer and just ahead of lefties Chris Getz and Alex Gordon.
"Now, if they bring in a lefty to face Hoz, they've got to make a decision," Yost said.
That would be to either have the left-hander stay in and face right-handed Cain or bring in a righty with two left-handed batters coming up, then maybe use another lefty. Chess, anyone?
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.