Royals demote projected second baseman Johnny Giavotella

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24-year-old Johnny Giavotella was expected to be the Royals’ second baseman and No. 2 hitter this season. After 44 at-bats this spring in which he hit .250/.267/.318, he’s on his way back to Triple-A.

The Royals demoted the New Orleans product on Sunday, opting instead to go with Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt as their second basemen. It figures to be a platoon, as Getz is a left-handed hitter and Betancourt hacks from the right side.

It’ll be Getz’s third go at being Kansas City’s second baseman after he hit .237/.302/.277 in 2010 and .255/.313/.287 last year, losing the job both seasons. He was supposed to be the odd-man out this spring, with Betancourt serving as the Royals’ utilityman.

Giavotella, meanwhile, will try to earn another opportunity in Triple-A, though he has little to prove after hitting .338/.390/.481 there last season. He’s easily the Royals’ best offensive option at second base, though since he does have a below average glove, his future as a long-term regular is very much in doubt.

With Gio out of the mix, the Royals are probably looking at the following lineup:

LF Alex Gordon
2B Getz/CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
RF Jeff Francoeur
3B Mike Moustakas
CF Cain/2B Betancourt
C Humberto Quintero/Brayan Pena
SS Alcides Escobar

Getz will probably hit second against righties, with either Cain or Escobar moving up against lefties.

Worse, the Royals seem set to go with Jason Bourgeois and Mitch Maier as their two bench players along with the backup infielder and catcher. They’re going to have three starters occasionally worth pinch-hitting for and no good options to take the at-bats. Dropping Maier and going with a real hitter seems like an obvious choice. Even if they couldn’t sign Vladimir Guerrero or Hideki Matsui on the cheap, they’d have a perfectly legitimate internal option for that role in Clint Robinson. They’re not going that route, though.

Albert Pujols is eighth on the all-time home run list

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Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.

With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.

The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Nationals place Max Scherzer on 10-day disabled list with neck inflammation

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The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.

Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.

It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.