KANSAS CITY -- It was a spectacular catch in Oakland that sent Lorenzo Cain crashing into the wall -- and to the disabled list.
So, when Cain made an almost dead-on reenactment of that catch in the ninth inning of Sunday's game against the White Sox, there was reason for brief concern.
White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza lifted a fly ball to deep center field with two on and one out in the top of the ninth. Cain ran back toward the fence and made the grab before crashing into the padding of the wall. The catch was a big one, a run-saver that kept the score at 2-1. The Royals would eventually lose by that score, but the momentary preservation of hope was only made possible by Cain's catch.
However, one couldn't help but notice that Cain hit the wall with the left side of his body, including his left hip, the same body part that required months of rehab. He just came back from the DL on Friday, and Sunday's game marked just his second start since returning.
A day later, Cain said he was feeling fine.
"Everything's good. It's been a while since I ran into the wall. Definitely didn't end up good for me the last time I ran into the wall. But I'm feeling great after that incident yesterday," Cain said.
Cain and manager Ned Yost both said that there were no flashes of the play in Oakland, no thoughts of "here we go again." They both said that Cain's approach to fielding isn't going to change and that there will be many more crashes into the wall before season's end.
"Trust me, he's going to bash into the wall a lot," Yost said. "As good as he is and as much ground as he covers out in the outfield and as rangy as he is, it's going to happen a lot. I don't worry about it too much."
"That's what I do. I try to make plays out there, and if it involves running into the wall to make the play, then that's what I've got to do," Cain said. "I'm definitely not scared of the wall. I never have been. I'll do it again any time."
Nine-hole proving fruitful for Royals
KANSAS CITY -- Though the Royals haven't been the most offensively productive team this season, one spot in the batting order has been one of baseball's best.
The Royals' No. 9 hitters have batted .282, the best mark at that spot in the Major Leagues. Entering play Monday, the Kansas City No. 9 hitters also led baseball in hits (89) and doubles (26) while ranking second in total bases (133) and slugging percentage (.421), trailing the Toronto Blue Jays in both categories.
What has been the secret to Kansas City's nine-hole success? The main reason is Alcides Escobar, who has started as the No. 9 hitter a team-high 36 times.
"That would be a correct assumption -- with Esky hitting .300, yeah," manager Ned Yost said.
Escobar is having a stellar season, entering play Monday hitting .313 with 21 doubles and 27 RBIs. Batting ninth, Escobar has hit .309 with 12 doubles and 11 RBIs. He has since been bumped up to the No. 2 spot, where he's continued his success.
Second baseman Chris Getz, who has hit ninth five times this year, added to the RBI total with his run-scoring single Sunday against the White Sox. He had his own take on the team's nine-hole success.
"It says a lot, I guess, about the guys who are getting on base in front of them, really. It means that whoever's in the nine-hole has been putting together productive at-bats," Getz said.
Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has always referred to the ninth-place hitter as the second leadoff man, and he uttered the phrase just last week in Kansas City when unveiling the National League lineup for the All-Star Game. Getz said he saw the logic behind La Russa's way of thinking.
"There's definitely something to it," Getz said. "I think it depends on who's down there. But for the most part, it's typically a guy that could easily be a leadoff hitter, as well, a guy that can put the bat on the ball, put together a good at-bat. I think that's the reason why they put him in the nine-hole, versus maybe seven or eight, or maybe two."
The No. 9 hitter in Monday's game against the Mariners was catcher Salvador Perez, the ninth position player Yost has started in that spot this season. Yost said he wasn't too keen on putting Perez, who is hitting .373 this season, last on the lineup card, but he had no choice.
"I don't want to hit Sal ninth. I don't have any other spot to hit him right at this moment," Yost said. "I've been sitting here, looking at it, trying to figure out how to get Sal up in the lineup because I think he's a middle-of-the-order guy."
Yost believes continuity is best for Hosmer
KANSAS CITY -- For all you lineup watchers, Eric Hosmer is going to continue hitting in the Royals' No. 3 spot for a while, despite his .224 average and nine home runs through Monday. That's the word from manager Ned Yost.
"We've got Hosmer in the three-hole because we're trying to develop him as a three-hole hitter. I believe that's where he's going to be and I don't care right now," Yost said. "I know his production isn't that of a No. 3 hitter, but I believe it will be and I want him comfortable in that spot. It's a lot like [Alcides] Escobar last year. I know he's struggling, but it's a spot that I want him to get used to. Hopefully he's going to get it going, but if he doesn't in the next series or two, I might have to move him out of there."
Escobar struggled in the first half last year but Yost stayed with him in a crucial situations, and he believes that experience helped him develop into the .313 hitter in the No. 2 spot that he is today.
Hosmer is having a difficult second year after a sensational rookie season of .293, 19 homers and 78 RBIs in 128 games. Yost said Hosmer is working with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer in the cage.
"His swing's gotten a little long. It's gotten a little loopy. They're working on shortening it up. When your swing starts to get long, all of a sudden you start to get jumpy, you start swinging at pitches you don't want to swing at because you're not seeing the ball really well," Yost said. "When you're short and quick, you pick up the ball good, you recognize when the pitch is good and you stay back then explode on the ball. It's just getting his mechanics ironed out a little bit. These are all things that, in the long run, are going to be really good for him."
On Monday night against Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas, Yost had Lorenzo Cain in the fifth spot instead of Yuniesky Betancourt, who was just 4-for-31 in his previous seven games.
"We've moved Cain to the five because he's swinging the bat as good as anybody we've got on our club right now, and that's been a pretty big RBI spot," Yost said.
Royals not buying into pine-tar clamor
KANSAS CITY -- All the hoopla over Sunday's Ozzie Guillen-Bryce Harper pine-tar encounter brought up the old question: Can having pine tar high on the barrel of the bat help a hitter?
Not likely, according to a small poll in the Royals' dugout.
"I don't know how that helps a hitter, gives a hitter an advantage or what it really has to do with anything," manager Ned Yost said.
Yost figured the original intent of the rule banning pine tar beyond 18 inches from the end of the bat was to avoid discoloring the baseball or possibly aiding the pitcher's grip.
"In those days, the balls would last like 11, 12, 13 pitches in a game, and if you put your pine tar up real high and fouled a ball off or hit a ball to one of the infielders, it would put pine tar on the ball and they'd have to throw it out," Yost said. "Now a ball lasts only about 1.2 pitches per game."
Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said pine tar doesn't help hitters at all. He was a teammate of George Brett, although after the famous pine tar incident of July 24, 1983.
"You saw George's bats, and he was the best at going up the bat with it," Seitzer said. "But he was always touching the barrel and put the pine tar on there, it wasn't like he was rubbing the rag on it. And he didn't wear batting gloves."
Third baseman Mike Moustakas didn't know of any advantage to upper-barrel pine tar.
"The only way I can think is if you jammed, you get so much pine tar on the ball and it makes somebody make a bad throw," he said. "That's as far as I can see it."
Herrera, Mendoza to be out in community Tuesday
KANSAS CITY -- Members of the Royals pitching staff will be out in the community Tuesday.
Kelvin Herrera and Luis Mendoza will attend a baseball camp for kids with physical or developmental disabilities put on by the Royals and the Recreation Council of Greater Kansas City at the YMCA Challenger Sports Complex.
The Royals are also partnering with Community Blood Centers across the Kansas City area for the 20th annual Royals Blood Drive. The drive lasts throughout the week, and all registered donors will receive two tickets to a Royals game and a T-shirt.
Royals legend John Mayberry, as well as current Royals pitchers Louis Coleman and Greg Holland will appear Tuesday at the location at 4040 Main Street in Kansas City, Mo., to greet donors. Mayberry will be there at 11 a.m. CT, and the two Royals relievers will appear at noon.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.