KANSAS CITY -- Mike Sweeney's name wasn't on the lineup card for Wednesday's game against the Twins, which prompted some to initially wonder if the injury bug might have bitten him again.
Not the case. Sweeney looked plenty frisky as he smacked drives around Kauffman Stadium during early batting practice. Sweeney's absence from the lineup was simply part of manager Buddy Bell's preventive maintenance plan as he tries to keep the oft-injured Sweeney healthy for the long haul by holding him out during quick turnaround sequences.
With the Royals playing a day game on Thursday following the Wednesday night game, and left-hander Johan Santana scheduled to go in the series finale, Bell decided to rest Sweeney in the middle game of the series. That decision also enabled Bell to find some at-bats for Matt Stairs as the DH against righty Scott Baker.
"I talked to Mike a couple of days ago," Bell said. "There are times when I give Mike a day off on a day game following a night game. But since we're facing Santana tomorrow, I did it a little bit backwards. Stairs needs to get some at-bats, too. Tonight was an easier time for me to give Mike a breather and get Matt in there because of the matchup tomorrow."
Sweeney wasn't in the lineup as the DH last Wednesday afternoon in Chicago following a Tuesday night game. He hasn't appeared in more than 126 games since the 2001 season, and the Royals are hopeful that the periodic breathers will enable their top offensive threat to stay finely tuned and away from the disabled list.
Ace pitcher: The Royals put their faith in right-hander Scott Elarton when they made him their No. 1 starter, and Elarton has responded in big-time fashion through five outings. Prior to Wednesday's play, Elarton was ninth in the American League in ERA (3.16) and seventh in opponents' batting average (.205).
Elarton's 0-4 record is tied directly to a lack of run support. The Royals have produced just five runs total for Elarton, but Elarton isn't spending any time worrying about what he can't control.
"I'm just thinking about what I have to do in the next inning," Elarton said. "My job is to put zero after zero on the board. I can't concern myself with anything other than that."
On the farm: Billy Butler continues to thrive at Double-A Wichita. Butler went 2-for-4 on Tuesday with a homer and four RBIs in a 12-3 win over Arkansas. Butler is 12-for-25 (.480) with four homers and nine RBIs in his last six games. Chris Lubanski was 2-for-3 with a double and two walks while Alex Gordon was 1-for-5 and is hitting .321. ... Reigning Cal League Player of the Week Mike Stodolka went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, but is still hitting .383 for Class A High Desert.
Around the horn: Reliever Joe Nelson was designated for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for Runvelvys Hernandez, who started Wednesday's game. ... Mike Wood celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday. Hernandez turns 28 on Thursday and pitching coach Bob McClure turns 53 on Saturday. ... Starter Denny Bautista, who is on the disabled list with a sore right pectoral muscle, could conceivably return by mid-May. "I talked to [trainer Nick Swartz] yesterday and it's probably going to be the middle of the month," Bell said.
Coming up: The Royals will wrap up the Minnesota series on Thursday with left-hander Mark Redman (0-0, 4.91 ERA) going against left-hander Johan Santana (0-3 4.81 ERA).
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.