KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' recent wave of new starting pitchers has presented a challenge to the team's catchers.
A game's success can be based on the rapport between a pitcher and catcher, and experience with one another strengthens that bond. But the Royals have had to learn on the fly lately, with a couple starters coming up from the Minor Leagues to fill gaps in the rotation.
Things didn't go well for Ryan Verdugo and Salvador Perez on Tuesday, when Verdugo gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings. He was sent back to Triple-A Omaha the next day.
Perez had the task of handling another rookie, Will Smith, for the first time on Wednesday. The two were going over their game plan in the clubhouse in the hours before the game.
The Royals' other backstop, Brayan Pena, said that it is tough for catchers to work with so many different pitchers on short notice.
"It is [challenging]," Pena said. "It's something that we can't control. It's something that we've got to go out there and try to do our best for those pitchers to feel comfortable out there. But it's a good sign for our ballclub that we've got good depth, especially in the Minors. We've got a lot of good arms and good talent.
"You just try to come here and prepare yourself and do your best. That's the only thing that you can control. Other than that, the game dictates itself, but if you come early, if you work and you do your preparation pregame -- stats and other things that you need to do -- if things do not go your way, at least you know that you prepared yourself. You're not being lazy and you've been working to try to get better and to help your team."
Kendall returns to Royals on Minor League deal
KANSAS CITY -- Jason Kendall isn't finished.
Kendall, 38 and with 15 Major League seasons behind him, has signed a Minor League contract with the Royals and reported to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Thursday to resume his playing career. He's scheduled to start at catcher on Friday night at Springfield.
Kendall missed the entire 2011 season after twice undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. He's been with the Royals since Spring Training rehabilitating his shoulder and acting as an unofficial coach and adviser.
"It's just giving him an opportunity to see where he's at," manager Ned Yost said. "We like our two catchers that are here [Salvador Perez and Brayan Pena], but you know how quickly things can turn. The more depth you have down there, especially in terms of Major League experience, is very valuable. He doesn't know if he can do it. He feels good, he's working hard, he's taking his rehab to a point where he feels like he can play so he's going to give it a shot."
Kendall was the Royals' regular catcher in 2010, his first season with the team, when his shoulder finally gave out in August. He underwent extensive surgery in September. While rehabbing, he had further injury and had a second surgery in July 2011. After a year of recovery, he's been able to throw and hit well enough to give it a try.
"I've always known that Jason is not going to go down like that," Pena said. "He's a great competitor. I'm pretty sure that he feels a lot better because obviously he's back playing. I wish him nothing but the best because he's been great to me. He's been a great teammate for all of us. Now he's got to get back to his old form and go from there."
While with the Royals this season and last, Kendall has helped many younger pitchers and catchers and there's no doubt he'll do the same with Northwest Arkansas. He'll be sharing catching time with Manny Pina, back after undergoing knee surgery last spring.
"Every time that we have a question or something like that, he doesn't hesitate to give you an answer or at least to help you to find out what is best for you and your team," Pena said. "That's what Jason Kendall is. He's one of the guys that's very passionate about the game, and I've got a lot of respect for him."
Kendall was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates and also played for the A's, Cubs and Brewers. In 2010, he became just the fifth player in history to catch 2,000 games.
"He's a trouper," said Pena, who was Kendall's backup in 2010. "He's a guy that goes out there and tries to do his best every time that I saw him here. I assume that he's going to get back in form quick, and hopefully he can be healthy because he's a great leader and he taught me a lot while I was working with him."
Dyson escapes unscathed after crashing into wall
KANSAS CITY -- Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson blasted into the center-field wall at warp speed in the second inning of Thursday's 6-1 loss and fell to the ground but escaped injury.
"I didn't think we had a center-field wall," Dyson said. "Naw, I was tracking the ball down, so at the time I had in my mind, it was either catch it and hit the wall or hit the wall and don't catch it at all."
Dyson was tracking a home run drive by the Mariners' Jesus Montero.
"I told him he forgot the wall was there," manager Ned Yost said. "But he's that type of player. He was trying to get back and get into position to rob it and he might have been. He was one step late, but he hit it full speed."
The ball cleared the wall as Dyson slammed into it. As he got up, he moved his head from side to side, perhaps making sure it was still there, but was OK.
"It's all right, I'm tough," he said.
Weary legs don't keep Cain from lineup for finale
KANSAS CITY -- Lorenzo Cain was in the Royals' lineup again on Thursday, but his legs, at least, are still not 100 percent.
"The thing we've got to do right now is get Cain's legs underneath him. He's probably about 85 percent," manager Ned Yost said.
Cain, after missing three months with two injuries in his left leg, played his seventh game since returning from the disabled list. In Wednesday night's 8-7 victory over the Mariners, Yost was prepared to give Cain's legs a break late in the game.
"We were going to defend [Jarrod] Dyson for Cain in the seventh inning if we had the lead, but we boxed the ball around so much we let 'em tie the score and I couldn't do it," Yost said. "I had to keep Cain's bat in there."
Cain was in right field instead of center field on Thursday with Jeff Francoeur getting a day off.
"In right field he won't have to move around as much, we'll let Dyson patrol center field today and it's a good day to give Frenchy a day off," Yost said. "We'll probably give Cain a day off tomorrow."
Francoeur's day off coincided with Frenchy Quarter Thursday, a weekly event where fans in the right field seats get gold T-shirts and Mardi Gras beads. On an earlier Frenchy Quarter Thursday, Francoeur was ejected in the second inning.
Royals option Mazzaro to clear room for Smith
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals optioned right-handed pitcher Vin Mazzaro back to Triple-A Omaha ahead of Thursday's game with the Mariners.
The move corresponds with the recall of left-handed pitcher Will Smith, who got the start against Seattle in the finale.
Mazzaro's latest stint with the Royals lasted just two days. He was recalled to provide long relief in Tuesday's game, throwing 2 1/3 innings and allowing three runs. He did not pitch in Wednesday's game.
On the season, Mazzaro is 3-3 in nine games (six starts) with the Royals. He's struck out 22 batters in 32 1/3 innings and has an ERA of 6.12.
Yost moves Hosmer from third to sixth in order
KANSAS CITY -- As promised, Royals manager Ned Yost dropped struggling first baseman Eric Hosmer (.222) from third to sixth in the lineup on Thursday.
"I'm just trying to put him in a position where the weight of the world is not on his shoulders, hitting in the three-spot, and just go from there," Yost said.
"He'll gather it back. I don't like moving guys in the order if I can at all avoid it. But it just got to a point where we had to do it."
The immediate results were good. In a 6-1 loss to the Mariners, Hosmer went 2-for-4 with a single, a double and a hard-hit lineout to center.
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.