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Notes: Greinke thriving as reliever

Notes: Greinke thriving in bullpen

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KANSAS CITY -- Zack Greinke is thriving in his new role.

After tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win Tuesday night, Greinke has fashioned a 0.91 ERA as a reliever, permitting just one earned run in 11 innings since moving to the bullpen in early May.

"I definitely like it, I like the fact that you get to pitch every day," Greinke said. "At first, I thought it was a negative because you could never relax, but it is kind of cool that you come to the field every day ready to go."

Manager Buddy Bell sees a more relaxed and calm pitcher, who has crafted an impressive 10 strikeouts vs. three walks as a reliever.

"Just the fact that Zack has a chance to play baseball every night just gets his spirits up," Bell said. "His confidence is much better. Obviously, he is not going to be there every night because of the workload, but it is nice to see a smile on his face all the time."

The move has not only transformed Greinke, it's revamped a bullpen that ranked as one of the league's worst in the first month of the season. Since May 11, the relief corps has a 3.00 ERA entering Wednesday. The starters have also improved, posting a 3.42 ERA and allowing more than three earned runs just twice in that same span.

Veteran left-hander Odalis Perez said Greinke switching to the bullpen is "the best move the team has made this year." Bell and Greinke agree.

"It hasn't hurt," Bell said. "I think that your team benefits most by doing what is best for the player. Sometimes, it doesn't work out, but eventually it does. I still see Zack in the rotation at some time in his career, but we are real comfortable with him in the bullpen because he is."

Said Greinke: "I think [Perez] is sort of right, especially with the starting rotation, because all five starters know they are the five starters. Every outing for Odalis, or me, 'Is this going to be my last one?' Now, they are just pitching and that makes it a lot easier on the bullpen and on the starting rotation."

Soria to switch roles: Bell also said Joakim Soria (10 saves) will not stay as the Royals' closer once Octavio Dotel has his durability and stuff back.

Dotel, who was activated Tuesday after missing the entire season with a left oblique strain, will mainly pitch the seventh and eighth innings until he is ready to close.

"The fact of the matter is that Dotel came here to be a closer, and we feel that he has closer stuff and we just feel that he just makes our bullpen that much better," Bell said. "We can put Soria in the seventh or eighth depending if he is ready for that particular night or not. It just makes our bullpen that much better and stretches it out."

Bell said Dotel's control will be the main factor in determining whether the right-hander can pitch the ninth inning.

"Command is always an issue with me," Bell said. "I think that is the biggest concern with me. What kind of strikes will he be throwing when he goes out there? I have a little bit of a concern when he is out there, especially when you put him in the ninth inning. When we see his command and his confidence, we will put him in the closer role."

Bale feeling fine: Pitcher John Bale (left shoulder tightness) will throw another batting-practice session Thursday before beginning his rehab assignment. Bale, who threw 25 pitches without pain Tuesday, will throw about 15 on Thursday.

The left-hander, who has been on the disabled list since April 1, nearly made a full recovery earlier this season before suffering a setback. Bale said his pitches are more refined now than during the first rehab assignment.

"I think it is going to be a little better than before the setback," Bale said. "The main thing is getting it back to where it was at the end of the last season, but I am sure that will come with time."

Sanders update: Reggie Sanders (left hamstring tear) will start doing soft toss this week. The outfielder was placed on the disabled list on May 3.

"It's getting better," Sanders said. "The pain has subsided a lot, and I can start getting more aggressive now."

O'Neil seat: Kyle Stevens from Independence, Mo., was sitting in Buck O'Neil's red seat on Wednesday. Stevens has helped protect the people of Independence as a firefighter.

Bunts: In a Sports Illustrated poll, Mike Sweeney was named the Majors' third-nicest player. Detroit's Sean Casey was picked as the nicest. ... In the Royals' 7-2 stretch, the pitching staff has posted a 3.00 ERA and has held hitters to a .233 average. ... Kansas City has the sixth-best ERA in the AL at 4.35, compared to a 6.08 mark after 46 games in 2006. ... On this date: Owner Ewing Kauffman was inducted into the Royals' Hall of Fame during the team's silver anniversary season in 1993. ... The Royals have won on five straight Wednesdays. ... Alex Gordon entered Wednesday having hit in a season-high five straight games (.333 average) and seven of his previous eight games. ... Jason LaRue went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a run scored in his first rehab start for Triple-A Omaha. ... Former All-Pro defensive end Neil Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday.

Royals rundown: Triple-A Omaha beat Oklahoma, 8-3, Tuesday. Craig Brazell continued his torrid hitting, blasting two homers. He leads the Minors with 16 homers and is batting .386 since his promotion to Omaha. Tyler Lumsden allowed three solo homers in six innings. ... Double-A Wichita lost, 8-2, to Frisco. Danny Christensen allowed six runs in five innings. Luke Hochevar was scheduled to pitch Wednesday. ... Class-A Wilmington lost, 8-6, to Potomac. Daniel Cortes struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings, and Marc Maddox had two hits and two RBIs. ... Class-A Burlington lost, 10-7, to Great Lakes. Michael Thompson hit his ninth homer.

Player of the day: Mike Aviles, who matched Brazell's amazing performance, hit two homers of his own for Omaha. The shortstop is hitting .326 with four homers and 26 RBIs this season. Aviles was a seventh-round pick in 2003 from Concordia College (N.Y.)

Coming up: One of the American League's surprise pitchers this season, Jorge De La Rosa (4-3, 3.59 ERA), will face Indians left-hander Jeremy Sowers (0-4, 7.13) on Thursday night.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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