Sweeney's return pays off for Royals
DH breaks up no-hit bid in first at-bat in return from injury
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Sweeney made a big splash in his return to the Royals.
Sweeney was activated on Friday in time for the second game of the day-night doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. Manager Buddy Bell did not have Sweeney in the starting lineup, however.
"No, we'll put him on the bench. He just got here a little bit ago," Bell said.
And on the bench he sat until the ninth inning when he was summoned to pinch-hit for Tony Pena. With Twins right-hander Scott Baker just two outs from a no-hitter, Sweeney singled to left-center field.
"Going into the ninth inning, [bench coach] Billy Doran told me I was going to hit for Pena Jr. I did my homework, watched some video and I was ready to go," Sweeney said.
"But my hat's off to Scott Baker. He pitched extremely well tonight."
Sweeney had been out since June 18 with a right knee injury that required surgery. He had been with Triple-A Omaha on an injury rehabilitation assignment. In six games, he was just 4-for-21 (.190) with a double, one run, one RBI and four strikeouts.
"It probably won't look good on the back of my baseball card -- going to Omaha and hitting .190 -- but I swung the bat really well and hit the ball hard," he said.
To make room on the 25-man roster, the Royals optioned pitcher Kyle Davies to Double-A Wichita. That was just a paper move, because Davies, who beat the Twins in Friday's first game, can be activated in time to face the Texas Rangers next Wednesday night.
Davies understood the paper shuffling.
"Yeah, we're in a spot. Got a doubleheader and a lot of quick games coming up here," he said.
Sweeney went on the disabled list with a .245 average, seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 57 games.
"Being with Omaha for that six or seven days ... Every big leaguer should do it, just to appreciate the beauty of Major League Baseball," Sweeney said.
Being on the bench at the start of his return did not bother him.
"I told Buddy that when I get back, I'll do anything he wants me to do. Slap on the [catching] gear again, be a pinch-runner, help him take the lineup card out to the umpires. I'll do anything I can to be part of the team," Sweeney said.
The plan is for Billy Butler, who has filled Sweeney's designated-hitter role, to start playing more at first base. That will allow Sweeney to get back in the lineup as DH.
This is the final year of Sweeney's contract with the Royals, and how he performs in the final month could help determine his future with the club. He can become a free agent in the offseason.
In another roster move, the Royals placed pitcher John Thomson on the 60-day DL.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.