Ankiel feels no ankle pain in workouts
Center fielder likely to return soon in designated hitter role
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Center fielder Rick Ankiel appears to be closer to returning to the Royals' lineup.
Ankiel, out since March 12 with a sore right ankle, was tested in a Minor League intrasquad game Sunday and worked out early Monday morning.
"I just watched him take five, seven swings in the batting cage. I asked him how it felt, and he said, 'It's feeling good,'" manager Trey Hillman said.
"I asked him specifically, 'Are you feeling it?' and he said, 'No, I'm not feeling any pain. I feel the muscles working, but I don't feel any pain.' So that's good."
When Ankiel does return, it'll probably be as a designated hitter initially.
"We're hoping to get him back in Major League games sooner than later, obviously, for the need for the at-bats. We'll go DH. I don't know what day it'll be. I'm hopeful it's in the next two or three days," Hillman said.
Third baseman Alex Gordon, out with a broken right thumb, was also active in the batting cage and took swings against thrown pitches for the first time.
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"He took tee, toss, and he did 10 swings thrown, and he said it felt OK," Hillman said.
Although the break at the tip of his thumb is expected to heal by Opening Day, it's doubtful that Gordon will be back in the lineup by then.
"I would slate it as 'iffy,'" Hillman said.
Gordon might have to undergo a rehabilitation stint in the Minors to get his timing back. Meantime, Alberto Callaspo has been getting the majority of playing time at third base.
Another third baseman, top prospect Mike Moustakas, is also doubtful for the season opener with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He suffered an oblique pull while swinging the bat in practice at the Minor League camp.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.