Johnson leading way for KC on basepaths
Second baseman tops on club in stolen bases entering Sunday's action
KANSAS CITY -- Who's the Royals' leading base-stealer so far this season?
Surprise: It's Elliot Johnson, who'd played in just 48 of the 72 games prior to Sunday. His total was 11, just ahead of Alcides Escobar's 10.
Johnson will get more chances now that he's likely get the majority of playing time at second base with Chris Getz optioned to Triple-A Omaha. Johnson has good speed and stole 18 bases in 123 games last year for Tampa Bay, but he credits first-base coach Rusty Kuntz will improving his technique this year.
"Rusty's been helping me out a ton. He's unbelievable. He's really made my job easy on the basepaths," Johnson said. "As long as I can keep stealing bases, it adds an element to my game that isn't necessarily unique, but it certainly helps."
Kuntz has the goods on every opposing pitcher, a necessary tool in base-stealing.
"He's got them down. He's got times, tendencies, everything," Johnson said. "What they like to do -- any different number of things. It's pretty impressive."
Kuntz passes the credit along to a behind-the-scenes operative.
"As much credit as Elliot gives me, I have to give that much credit back to Mark Topping, the video coordinator," Kuntz said. "Because without him and that little iPad thing that he gives me ... I can't do it with the naked eye, because it happens too fast and you're thinking about a million things. But when he puts that stuff on your iPad, you can go back-and-forth and look at certain things."
Kuntz shares that information with Johnson and other base-stealing candidates before the games.
"What I try to find is one key, what I call a key. It's something a pitcher does when he goes to the plate, something that he does when he comes over to first," Kuntz said.
Johnson has not been caught trying to steal yet this season. Only three other players in the Majors have been perfect in 10 or more attempts.
"The one thing that Elliot brings that every good base-stealer has to have is, he trusts the information, he sees the information and he's not afraid to apply the information," Kuntz said.
The Royals, with 55 stolen bases, were tied for second in the American League with Cleveland. Boston was first with 59 going into Sunday's games. After Johnson and Escobar were Lorenzo Cain with nine and Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson each with seven.
Options big reason why Getz sent to Triple-A
KANSAS CITY -- Second baseman Chris Getz, more than anything, was demoted to Triple-A Omaha because he happened to have Minor League options remaining.
"Getzy didn't get sent down because of poor performance," manager Ned Yost said. "He was hitting .214, but you go back and look at a lot of those games we won and Getz was right in the middle of it in some way, some form, some shape. And that's what you want -- you want your players to go out and just do something today to help us win."
Yost has said that Elliot Johnson is expected to get the majority of playing time at second base, but that Miguel Tejada will be used there as well.
"I think everybody wants to have the opportunity to play every day, but it all depends on how you hit," Johnson said. "If you can hit consistent, you'll play consistent. If you don't, then you've got to be a super-U [utility] guy. It's kind of the way it works and I understand that.
"I'm not going to put more pressure on myself because now they've sent Getz down. They can call him back up anytime and so I'll go out there and play my game, and that's all I'm going to do."
Beach ball or not, bounce doesn't favor Butler
KANSAS CITY -- A bouncing beach ball fell onto the Kauffman Stadium field from the stands on Sunday and seemed to be part of a disputed call at home plate but, in actuality, it had nothing to do with it at all.
As the beach ball bounced in foul territory near the Royals' dugout during the seventh inning, Billy Butler swung at a two-strike pitch and home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called a foul ball. The ball bounced away from White Sox catcher Hector Gimenez, who retrieved it and threw to first base where Butler was called out by umpire Dan Bellino.
Players at the end of the Royals' dugout thought that Bellino had called time out when the beach ball rolled onto the field which would have nullified the pitch and the out. Meanwhile, the four umpires conferred in the middle of the infield -- not to discuss the beach ball, but whether or not Dreckman's call of a foul ball was correct.
The other umpires told him that Butler did not foul off the pitch, but had missed and therefore was out. When Royals manager Ned Yost asked Bellino about calling time out, the ump said he did not and play was live.
"When I went out there, [Dreckman's] explanation was 'I called it too quick and I missed it. We got together and we got it right. You want us to get it right -- right?' " Yost said. "That would be my argument if I was on the other side -- just get it right. And they did."
The play had no effect on the Royals' 7-6 victory. Butler finished 1-for-4, including an RBI single in the Royals' three-run fifth inning.
Salvy gets much-needed break from lineup
KANSAS CITY -- Catcher Salvador Perez got his first break from the Royals' starting lineup on Sunday after playing all 18 games since his return from bereavement leave.
"It's just something you have to do," manager Ned Yost said. "You can't run 'em into the ground. He's played every day since he's been back. I wanted to give him an off-day the last day in Cleveland and after we lost the middle game, I wasn't going to do it. It just gets to the point where you've got to do it and you take advantage of the off-day tomorrow. I like him with [James] Shields because it's a great pair, but it's a Sunday, we've got an off-day tomorrow and you've just gotta do what you've gotta do."
A hint that Perez needed a rest is his 2-for-24 (.083) falloff since his 11-game hitting streak ended last Sunday. Backup George Kottaras caught Shields against the White Sox.
Francoeur set for Braves' first trip to The K
KANSAS CITY -- Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur will get to see his old teammates from the Atlanta Braves when the National League club makes its first visit to Kauffman Stadium for a two-game set on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Braves are the last NL team to play at The K since Interleague Play began in 1997. Their great third baseman, Chipper Jones, first set foot in the stadium at last year's All-Star Game.
"I know that Chipper always told me he never played here before," Francoeur said. "Besides the All-Star Game, in a regular season game he's never played here. It is weird because, when I was with Atlanta, we'd gone so many different places, but never came here."
Francoeur will be spending some of Monday's off-day with catcher Brian McCann, an Atlanta-area neighbor.
"It's always good to see those guys and me and Brian have played with each other and against each other since we were 10 years old, so I'm looking forward to it," Francoeur said. "They've got the off-day tomorrow, too, so we're going to hang out. It's a good chance to see each other."
Royals claim former Cardinals' pitcher Cleto
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals on Sunday claimed right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto off of waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was assigned to Triple-A Omaha and to make room on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated outfielder Quintin Berry for assignment.
Cleto was 2-3 with a 6.92 ERA in 16 appearances for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. He pitched one game for the Cardinals earlier this season, logging 2 1/3 innings in a 10-3 loss to Arizona on June 5. Through three seasons, Cleto has appeared in 13 games for the Cardinals -- posting a 10.34 ERA with seven walks and 26 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.
The Royals claimed Berry on June 4 from the Tigers. Since then, he played in nine games for the Storm Chasers -- batting .194 with one homer, four RBIs and five stolen bases.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.