KANSAS CITY -- Catcher Jason Kendall is eyeing mid-May or perhaps June to return to the Royals' lineup. Admittedly getting "antsy," he's still strengthening his right shoulder at Kauffman Stadium, aiming toward a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
"I'm close," said Kendall, who had surgery on the shoulder in September. "It's hard for me to sit here. We're playing good, so that makes it a lot easier."
Although he wanted an earlier return, Kendall seems reconciled to making certain his shoulder is ready for everyday play so that he won't have to be shut down because of unexpected soreness.
"I'm going to take it easy and have patience and I don't have much of that," he said. "It's definitely a test."
Royals have walkie-talkies ready for 'pen calls
KANSAS CITY -- It's not true that the Royals moved the home bullpen to left field from right field this year to get better phone service. Well, not entirely.
Manager Ned Yost admitted there was the hope that occasional breakdowns in the phone connection between the dugout and bullpen experienced last year would be solved by the change. That was dashed on Tuesday night when a call for reliever Blake Wood went unanswered, prompting some frantic wig-wagging from the dugout and an emergency walkie-talkie, cop-to-cop call to get Wood cranking belatedly.
Now Yost said the Royals will have their own set of walkie-talkies in hand, just in case.
Actually, the change in bullpen location came about partially to give Yost and pitching coach Bob McClure a straight-on view of the pitcher warming up from their first-base dugout. Another plus was that, in Cowtown's broiling summer heat, the relievers and their catchers would get a break from the sun which beats down all day on the right-field corner. There's more shade in left field.
Before the bullpens were remodeled a couple years ago to have the pitchers throwing parallel to the fence rather than toward the fence, there was a rather spacious groundskeepers' office/storage area next to the right-field 'pen that the Royals could use as an escape for heat or air-conditioning and, of course, TV to get a good view of the game.
"We had all amenities, all the luxuries of home," longtime closer Jeff Montgomery recalled. "Anything you'd want."
Since the remodeling, though, that practice has changed, probably because there are more groundskeepers and less space.
"There's a place for the grounds crew but not for us," bullpen dean Joakim Soria said. "Almost no one used that thing."
Still, in left field there's absolutely no possible place to seek shelter, except a small bathroom. So, despite the use of heaters, there have been some frosty nights out there recently. While Montgomery could always warm up in the groundskeepers' hideaway in KC, there were some iceboxes on the road that made relief pitching a real challenge.
"It's really hard to get things going when you sit there for two hours and you feel like you're throwing iceballs," Montgomery said. "It's really difficult, and that's why I liked it here because you never had to do that. You'd kind of escape to climate control."
There were other bullpen pluses in the stadium's early days before there was a coach assigned there, former catcher John Wathan recalled. Pitcher Marty Pattin kept a barbecue pit going in the adjacent tunnel.
"You had to be careful you didn't have mustard on your face when you came in," Wathan said.
Cold weather not affecting Soria on the hill
KANSAS CITY -- There's been a lot of talk about the uncharacteristically tough outings that Joakim Soria has endured so far this season.
One theory is that the very cold weather has affected the closer's "touch" on the baseball and hampered his control a bit. Soria steadfastly has insisted he doesn't feel the cold.
Royals manager Ned Yost noted that Soria has the ability to do just what is necessary to get a save and is famously unaffected as he gets immersed in sticky situations.
"Lesser guys can have the same stuff that he has, but when they get into jams and they're not locked in, they panic and they start forcing stuff," Yost said. "And because Jack is Jack, he never gets to that point.
"And he probably doesn't feel the cold because, with everything I've seen, he's got ice water in his veins."
Hochevar retires 31 straight over two starts
KANSAS CITY -- Royals starter Luke Hochevar was on an extended run of pitching perfection in Wednesday's 7-5 loss to the Indians.
In fact, when he got through the first five innings against Cleveland without permitting a baserunner, he had retired 31 consecutive batters.
That included the first 15 Indians in this game and the last 16 Mariners in his previous start, a 6-5 victory over Seattle.
The bid for a perfect game ended when Michael Brantley, the first batter in the Indians' sixth, smacked a 2-1 pitch through the middle for a single. In Hochevar's game against the Mariners, he went seven innings and gave up just one hit, a game-opening double by Ichiro Suzuki, and one run.
But when the Indians got rolling on Wednesday night, they were hard to stop. They batted around and scored four runs in the sixth against Hochevar to take a 4-2 lead. He gave up five hits, including three doubles, in the inning and also contributed a walk and two balks.
"I don't know if I really have an answer," Hochevar said. "I was really throwing the ball well and then I don't know. The two balks -- that was my fault, obviously. But there's really no excuse for it."
Hochevar was taken out of the game after walking the first two batters in the seventh, both of which came around to score.
Hochevar's 31 consecutive outs had the researchers dusting off franchise files. That perfect stretch was just two shy of the club record of 33 straight batters retired by Steve Busby in 1974. Busby cut down the last 24 in his no-hitter at Milwaukee and then the first nine White Sox in his next start.
Hochevar's outing was perplexing.
"His stuff for the first five innings was as good as I've ever seen him out there," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Brantley led off the sixth with a hit, and then it just unraveled. He could never just reel it back in after that first base hit."
Starting in Crow's future, but not in 2011
KANSAS CITY -- Rookie Aaron Crow's success out of the Royals' bullpen doesn't mean that will be his lifetime career.
"We'll evaluate it at the end of the year," manager Ned Yost said. "I still think that Aaron Crow has a chance to be a pretty dynamic starter, and we won't give up on that for a while. But right now, his benefit to our team is in the bullpen."
Crow, the Royals' first-round Draft pick in 2009, made 29 Minor League starts last year in his first season after signing. He had a 9-10 record and 5.73 ERA combined at the Class A and Double-A levels.
In his first seven games in relief this year, Crow was not charged with a run over 10 1/3 innings. He had notched 12 strikeouts against four walks and allowed six hits.
Tejeda feels good after throwing session
KANSAS CITY -- Reliever Robinson Tejeda, on the 15-day disabled list, reported no aftereffects to his throwing session on Tuesday. Out with right shoulder inflammation, he threw 20 or 25 pitches.
"So far it feels good, no pain," he said. "I'll try to get more velocity, but I'm not going to put pressure on myself. Just work hard and get it back as soon as possible. It'll all come together."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.