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5/15/2014 8:55 P.M. ET

Lough reflects on breakthrough season in KC

KANSAS CITY -- Orioles left fielder David Lough returned to Kauffman Stadium on Thursday, spawning memories of some happy days in 2013.

Last season with the Royals, Lough played well enough to stamp his name as a fixture in a Major League lineup. Kansas City called him up from Triple-A Omaha on May 16 and Lough took full advantage of the opportunity. Jeff Francoeur was struggling as the everyday right fielder, and Lough worked his way into that role as the Royals made a strong second-half push to put themselves in the hunt for a Wild Card playoff spot.

"It's kind of weird being in the visiting clubhouse, never been over here before," Lough said. "It's good to be back. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces around the ballpark and saying hi."

Lough hit .286 for the Royals in 96 games last year and played well defensively. But Kansas City wanted an everyday leadoff hitter and made a deal for right fielder Nori Aoki on Dec. 5. A couple of weeks later, Lough was traded to Baltimore for Danny Valencia.

"I came up through the Kansas City system, and they showed a lot of faith in me," Lough said. "I didn't let them down. Last season, I thought I did some good things to help the team win. They had enough guys where they felt they could let me go, but it gave me an opportunity with the Orioles."

Lough was something of a late bloomer. He was a two-sport college athlete and needed a steep learning curve after signing professionally.

In six years coming through the Royals' organization, Lough said he learned "a ton" about becoming an everyday player.

Lough came up last year when speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson had to go on the disabled list. The original idea was that Lough would play until Dyson came back and then return to Triple-A.

"I forced their hand by playing well and eventually winning that right-field job," Lough said. "I loved Francoeur and he taught me a lot. They kind of gave me the job, and I ran with it and played the kind of baseball I know how to play."

Although he has been struggling at the plate with the Orioles this year, Lough needs only to look at his 2013 statistics to maintain inner confidence. He finished eighth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

"I only have 68 at-bats this year," Lough said prior to Thursday's game. "I feel comfortable at the plate and feel I can turn the offensive production around. My defense has been there and I've done some things to help the Baltimore Orioles win games. If I'm not doing it offensively, I'm trying to do it defensively."

Orioles recall Meek for bullpen, option Gausman

KANSAS CITY -- Needing a bullpen reinforcement for their series opener against the Royals, the Orioles recalled right-hander Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday and optioned right-hander Kevin Gausman to Norfolk.

Gausman accompanied the Orioles to Kansas City and met with manager Buck Showalter for a discussion about his start against the Tigers on Wednesday. Gausman went four innings, allowing six hits and five earned runs. He'll continue to build up innings after reporting to Norfolk.

"We needed an arm," Showalter said of the decision to bring up Meek after the bullpen had a heavy workload Wednesday. "It puts us back on our feet tonight. Evan was the best fit, all things considered. He's ready to go."

Meek returns to the Orioles after appearing in five games for Norfolk. In 6 1/3 innings, he allowed seven hits and four runs.

Showalter: Division standings to loosen soon

KANSAS CITY -- With clubs at or near the quarter pole in the 2014 season, there was only a 3 1/2-game difference between first and last place in the American League East entering Thursday's action. But Orioles manager Buck Showalter doesn't expect the division to be so bunched a month from now.

"Everybody starts separating about the middle of June," Showalter said. " At ESPN, they used to talk about it every year. We're getting into that stage of the season where teams start separating.

"A lot of clubs have tried to work their way through injuries. Everybody has them. That's why the 'what-ifs' are so important."

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.