CLEVELAND -- Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar and Gil Meche are nearing a return to the Royals.
The rehabbing right-handers remain on track to rejoin the team in September, with Meche likely being activated from the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday when rosters expand.
Meche, who has not pitched for Kansas City since May 25 because of right shoulder bursitis, will serve as a reliever upon his reinstatement. The 31-year-old right-hander is 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA across four rehabilitation appearances, including one start, for Triple-A Omaha.
Hochevar, on the 15-day DL retroactive to June 12 with a right elbow strain, worked two scoreless innings of two-hit ball Saturday in the first of potentially three rehab starts for Omaha. The 26-year-old righty walked one, struck out one and threw 29 pitches, 15 of which were strikes.
Bannister, on the 15-day DL retroactive to Aug. 8 with right rotator cuff tendinitis, is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA through two starts with Omaha. The 29-year-old righty is slated to throw four innings in his next rehab outing, likely the last before the Royals activate him.
The trio's return can't come soon enough for Royals manager Ned Yost, whose taxed pitching staff could use the depth.
"We've been getting good reports on everybody -- Banny, Hoch and Meche," Yost said. "They're all feeling good and working their way back. The next step is just to continue the rehab process. We're just trying to get their pitch counts up."
Butler back after resting sore right hand
CLEVELAND -- First baseman Billy Butler returned to the Royals' lineup on Sunday after not starting the previous two games to rest his sore right hand.
Butler served as the designated hitter in Kansas City's series finale against Cleveland. He entered Saturday night's 4-3, 10-inning loss as a pinch-hitter for Kila Ka'aihue in the ninth inning, flying out to center field with two on and two out, and remained in the game defensively at first base.
Thursday's off-day allowed Butler the better part of three days to nurse the ailing hand, which has bothered him since shortly following the All-Star break.
The 24-year-old paces the Royals with 145 hits this season. He began Sunday's contest having recorded a hit in 92 consecutive series, the second longest streak in franchise history.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost would have preferred to shelve Butler for the duration of his club's weekend set in Cleveland. Alas, the skipper had no such luxury.
"We've got to find some ways to get the offense going," Yost said. "You can't have one of your best hitters on the team sitting on the bench when you're struggling to score runs.
"Ideally, I would have liked to give him another day, but the three days he's had have helped and his hand does feel better. We're trying to win ballgames."
Royals closer Joakim Soria entered Sunday's action having not yielded a run across his past 13 innings of work, limiting the opposition to a .188 batting average (9-for-48) during that stretch. ... First baseman Billy Butler began Sunday afternoon's game batting .281 in 89 career at-bats at Progressive Field. ... Entering Sunday's slate, Kansas City had played a Major League-leading 16 extra-inning contests this season. ... Twenty-one of the Royals' past 28 games entering Sunday had been decided by two or fewer runs.
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.