CHICAGO -- First baseman Kila Ka'aihue joined the Royals on Wednesday after being recalled from Triple-A Omaha in lieu of the club's decision to place outfielder Rick Ankiel on the disabled list with a right quad strain. For Ka'aihue, it's his first shot at the big leagues during the meat of a season. His only prior experience came during the expanded rosters period in 2008.
"Very much so," said Ka'aihue about whether this was a big day for him. "I'm really excited to be here."
What's not yet clear is how much playing time there will be for Ka'aihue, with Billy Butler and Jose Guillen entrenched at first base and designated hitter, respectively. What is clear is that if Ka'aihue can translate his Minor League production to the big leagues, he can help a Royals lineup that ranks 13th in the league in walks. Ka'aihue was hitting .304, with seven homers, 20 RBIs and a Pacific Coast League-leading 24 walks.
"If Kila is in the starting lineup, it means Jose is probably in right. It means Mitch Maier might have the day off. It means Billy might DH," said Royals manager Trey Hillman.
Like many patient hitters, plate discipline has always been a featured part of Ka'aihue's game, but he's worked on not being overly passive.
"[Patience] has always been a part of my game, but I've tried to become more conscientious about not taking too many pitches," Ka'aihue said. "If I can, I let it go a little bit more."
Another avenue for getting Ka'aihue playing time may be for Hillman to pinch-hit more often in the late innings. Entering Wednesday's game in Chicago, the Royals were tied for last in the American League with five plate appearances by pinch-hitters.
"He's doing a lot of good things offensively and doing some good things at first base," said Hillman. "It's good to have somebody that's hot right now, especially a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark."
For Ka'aihue, it's just good to be back in the big leagues, no matter what role he eventually plays.
"They haven't really told me much of anything," said Ka'aihue about his potential role. "I'm just going to get my opportunities and try to make the best of it."
One adjustment for Royals fans will be learning to pronounce Ka'aihue's phonetically challenging last name. Here it is, from the man himself: Kie-uh-HOO-ee.
Farnsworth still an option as a starter
CHICAGO -- The Royals are currently set with their five-man starting rotation, but it's rare for a team to make it through a season with five starters.
During Spring Training, long-time reliever Kyle Farnsworth attempted to make the transition to starting, but ultimately ended up back in the bullpen. Farnsworth threw three shutout innings out of the bullpen to finish the Royals' loss to the White Sox on Monday. Though he's still a reliever, the possibility still exists that Farnsworth may get the call should the Royals need help in the rotation.
"He'd still be a candidate, along with [Robinson] Tejeda," said Royals manager Trey Hillman. "I just think Tejeda has more value in helping us get to [closer Joakim Soria] because of his ability to strike people out."
In the meantime, all Farnsworth can do is straddle the line between preparing for his role in Kansas City's bullpen and staying prepared should he get the call to start.
"Preparation-wise, it might change a little bit," Farnsworth said. "As far as pitch selection, I wouldn't change anything, because I'm already using all of my pitches."
Farnsworth is 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3 innings this season. He started 26 games for the Cubs in 1999 and 2000, his first two seasons in the big leagues. He hasn't taken the mound as a starter since April 22, 2000.
Kendall doesn't sweat heavy workload
CHICAGO -- Entering play on Wednesday, no big league catcher had logged more time behind the plate than Jason Kendall's 227 innings. Kendall is on pace to catch 156 games, which would easily surpass his career high of 149 games caught for the Brewers in 2008. Is he surprised by the heavy workload?
"I expect to play every day," Kendall said. "That's our job. You go out there every day and contribute in some way."
Kendall is in his 15th big league season, however, it may not be such a surprise that he's spending more time squatting behind home plate than ever before. Like many veterans who last this long, Kendall has learned the importance of conditioning.
"You take care of yourself," Kendall said. "There are certain things you do during the game to slow things down, so it's not just, 'Boom, boom, boom,' but a lot of it is mental. If you believe you can do it, you can do it."
Last season, Oakland's Kurt Suzuki and Detroit's Gerald Laird tied for the AL lead with 135 games caught. Just nine backstops in the circuit caught as many as 100 games. Managers are generally hesitant to overwork a player at the game's most demanding position, but Kendall thinks big league skippers are almost too conservative with their handling of catchers.
"Yeah, but you have to pick your spots, I guess," Kendall said. "I think one of the coolest things in baseball is that [Milwaukee's] Prince Fielder played in every game. That's something that nobody can take away from you."
CHICAGO -- Last season, Royals starter Zack Greinke set a record by winning the American League Cy Young Award with 16 victories, the lowest total for an American League starting pitcher to win the award in a non-strike season. This year, at the rate things are going, Greinke may challenge another record in a similar vein.
Greinke stands 0-3 on the season, despite ranking eighth in the AL with a 2.27 ERA. Silly as it seems, Greinke is on pace to go 0-19. The Royals have scored a total of 16 runs in Greinke's six starts.
The big league record for fewest wins by a pitcher who qualified for the ERA title with a mark under 3.00 is four, held by five players in non-strike seasons. The last time it occurred was 1937, when Gene Schott of the Reds accomplished the feat.
Greinke's next start is on Friday in Texas.
Hillman could get crafty with bullpen
CHICAGO -- The Royals have an ace in the rotation in defending AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. They also have an ace at the back of their bullpen in closer Joakim Soria.
Greinke, of course, takes a turn every fifth day in the starting rotation. The way Soria is used is a more tricky proposition, given the vagaries of the save statistic. As a result, Soria has thrown just 11 2/3 innings entering Wednesday's game. Two Kansas City relievers, Robinson Tejeda and Kyle Farnsworth, have thrown more innings than the team's stopper.
A good example of the difficulty in finding work for Soria came in Tuesday's game against the White Sox. With the Royals leading, 6-2, in the ninth inning, Mike Aviles tagged a home run off of Chicago reliever Tony Pena. Though it was not a save situation, Soria would likely have gotten the call if Aviles had not homered since he hasn't thrown since May 1. However, the additional run made the situation a little too low-impact for manager Trey Hillman to use his best reliever.
"I talked to [Soria] and told him that I was trying to walk that fine line," said Hillman, "[where he] is staying in the mix and facing hitters, but not so often that he starts to get tired."
Colorado manager Jim Tracy garnered some attention over the weekend when he used his closer, Franklin Morales, in the eighth inning in a tight spot even though it wasn't a save situation. Morales did the job and Tracy then brought in Manuel Corpas to finish the game in the ninth. Hillman isn't averse to using Soria in a similar way should the situation arise.
"It's a possibility, but it's tough to predict," said Hillman. "That's why I think there is a lot value in having a two closers. That's what a lot of the good bullpens have, they just don't call them closers."
Diamond Of Dreams set for June 24
CHICAGO -- Diamond of Dreams: Taking the Field for Operation Breakthrough will take place on the field at Kauffman Stadium from 7-10:30 p.m. on June 24. The annual Royals Charities event benefits Operation Breakthrough, which works to help poverty-stricken children and their families.
Diamond of Dreams will feature appearances from current and former Royals, plus an appearance from Drew6. Area restaurants will also kick in with a terrific food and drink menu. There will also be a silent auction around home plate, and the festivities will wind up with a fireworks show.
Prior to the on-field event, Royals Charities will host The Capital Grille VIP Party beginning at 5:30 p.m. The party features a silent auction of sports memorabilia and merchandise from Tiffany & Co. A limited number of tickets for the VIP Party are available for $250 per person.
Tickets for the on-field event are $100 and can be purchased at www.royals.com/diamondofdreams or by calling 816-504-4149.
Down on the farm
CHICAGO -- Michael Montgomery, who was named as the Royals' top prospect by Baseball America before the season, made his debut for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday.
Montgomery allowed one run and two hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walked four batters. In four starts for Class A Wilmington, Montgomery had 33 strikeouts, four walks and a 1.09 ERA in 24 2/3 innings.
As for Triple-A, Royals manager Trey Hillman got good reports on recently demoted Alex Gordon, who homered in his second start in left field for Omaha.
"He hit a ball all the way out of Rosenblatt Stadium today," said Hillman. "For his second day in left field, he looked real good. He moves around well, he's got a lot of energy and his attitude is good. He made some nice catches."
Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.