Back in the lineup after a long stint on the disabled list, Sweeney hopes to help the Royals reclaim their spot atop the division as they resume a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
Kansas City lost its fourth straight and eighth in 11 games with Friday’s series opener 4-0 setback to Tampa Bay.
The loss, combined with Chicago’s 3-2 win over Oakland, dropped Kansas City a half game back in the Central. The Royals had been in first place since July 1.
However, the Royals did receive a lift before the game when they activated Sweeney from the 15-day disabled list.
Sweeney, who was hitting .321 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 62 games before going on the DL on June 19, missed 45 games with nerve irritation in his back and neck.
“We’re missing the most key part of our lineup, and when you put Mike back in it, you can almost give us one more run a game,” outfielder Aaron Guiel said.
“And with the way we’ve played lately, one run is huge. The way he plays the game, his enthusiasm and character, the fact that he gives us an extra run only shows half the player he is.”
Sweeney was scheduled to return Monday, felt pain while playing in a rehab game in Triple-A Omaha. On Thursday, however, he announced that he was ready to return.
“Your body has a way of telling you when you’re ready and when you’re not,” said Sweeney, who went 1-for-4 as the Royals’ designated hitter Friday. “And I’m ready. The big test was this morning when I woke up and there was no pain. That was a good sign to me that I’m ready.”
STANDINGS: Royals - 2nd place, 1/2 GB AL Central. Devil Rays - 5th place, 25 1/2 GB, AL East.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Runelvys Hernandez (6-4, 3.87 ERA). Hernandez gave up six earned runs and eight hits in five innings of Monday’s 13-9 win over the Chicago White Sox—his second victory in three decisions. His only career start against the Devil Rays came on Aug. 11, when he gave up one hit in five innings of a 10-0 win.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Victor Zambrano (9-5, 4.14 ERA). On Monday, Zambrano gave up just seven hits in seven scoreless innings of a 10-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays—his third straight victory and fourth in five decisions. The win was Zambrano’s team-high ninth of the season, a career best for the 28-year-old right-hander, putting him on pace to threaten Rolando Arrojo’s team record of 14, set in 1999. In two career starts against the Royals, Zambrano, who is 7-1 in his last 10 starts, is 1-0 with a 6.55 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Royals - Raul Ibanez, .297 avg. and 69 RBIs; Carlos Beltran, 17 HRs, 68 runs and 30 SBs. Devil Rays - Huff, .299 avg., 19 HRs and 60 RBIs; Rocco Baldelli, 63 runs; Carl Crawford, 34 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Devil Rays, 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - To make room for 1B-DH Sweeney, the Royals optioned RHP Nate Field to Triple-A Omaha on Friday. … Kansas City acquired RHP Paul Abbott from Arizona on Friday for minor league LHP Aric Leclair. Abbott is scheduled to start Monday’s game against the New York Yankees. … 3B Joe Randa left Friday’s game after he was hit just above the right elbow by a pickoff throw. He also jammed his left wrist getting back to the base. Devil Rays - 1B-OF Huff’s first-inning double Friday was his 39th, tying the team record set last season by Randy Winn. … Rookie OF Baldelli is in the midst of a 2-for-24 slump. … RHP Zambrano is 5-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 13 appearances, including 10 starts, at home this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 29-27 on the road; Devil Rays - 26-32 at home.
INJURIES: Royals - INF Mendy Lopez (calf), 15-day DL; OF Michael Tucker (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Lima (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Kyle Snyder (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL; 3B Randa (elbow, wrist), day-to-day. Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; INF Terry Shumpert (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Ben Grieve (blood clot), 60-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL.