The Royals designated for assignment shortstop Tony Pena Jr. and optioned center fielder Mitch Maier to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday.
The moves cleared roster space for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and third baseman Alex Gordon. Both are coming off the disabled list and will be in the starting lineup for Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Pitcher Sidney Ponson reported from his injury rehabilitation assignment but remained on the disabled list.
The Royals listed their starting rotation for the Tampa Bay series. Brian Bannister will start the Friday night opener, followed by All-Star Zack Greinke on Saturday night and Luke Hochevar on Sunday.
The club will further evaluate the status of Gil Meche, who left his last start because of a back spasm.
In addition, shortstop Luis Hernandez cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. He had been designated for assignment by the Royals
The Royals moved to plug their shortstop gap by acquiring Yuniesky Betancourt from the Seattle Mariners on Friday.
Betancourt, plus cash, was obtained in exchange for Minor League pitchers Danny Cortes and Derrick Saito.
However, Betancourt will not join the Royals immediately because he’s on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring and has just begun an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Tacoma. He’ll continue his rehab work with the Royals’ Double-A club at Northwest Arkansas.
Betancourt, a .250 hitter in 63 games this season for the Mariners, has two homers, 10 doubles, a triple and 22 RBIs. However, he’s a career .279 hitter in five seasons with the Mariners since making his debut in 2005. A right-handed hitter, he’s tough to strike out, an average of just once in every 11.83 plate appearances.
His 341 double plays rank second in Major League Baseball to the 357 by Oakland’s Orlando Cabrera.
The Royals have been struggling to fill shortstop since Mike Aviles, their 2008 Player of the Year, was injured early this season. He’s out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Willie Bloomquist has started 27 games at shortstop but that’s not considered to be his prime position. Still on the roster is Tony Pena Jr., strong defensively but hitting just .089. Another shortstop, Luis Hernandez, was designated for assignment last Tuesday.
Cortes was assigned to the Mariners’ Double-A team at West Tennessee and Saito will go to Single-A Clinton.
— Dick Kaegel