Eric Hosmer cleared to begin swinging a bat

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Eric Hosmer has been sidelined for nearly a month with a stress fracture in his right hand, but Royals manager Ned Yost told Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star today that he has improved enough to where “he can swing but not hit.”

Hosmer stood in the batter’s box today and tracked pitches from left-handed reliever Scott Downs, who is currently making his way back from a neck sprain. The 24-year-old will continue to swing without contact until Thursday, when he’s expected to hit off a tee and take some soft toss. Yost envisions him going out on a minor league rehab assignment if Triple-A Omaha makes the playoffs, where he’d get potentially 15-20 at-bats before rejoining the Royals.

Billy Butler has functioned as the regular first baseman in Hosmer’s absence and the recently-acquired Josh Willingham has thrived as the regular designated hitter, but Hosmer’s return would provide more flexibility for Kansas City’s lineup.

Hosmer was batting .267 with six home runs and a .689 OPS over 104 games prior to the injury.