Bale was eligible to come off the 15-day DL, where he's been since April 17 because of left shoulder fatigue. However, Kansas City manager Trey Hillman wants him to throw live batting practice twice to evaluate his progress. That's likely to take until midweek.
There's no certainty yet whether Bale (0-3, 7.63 ERA) will resume starting or go to the bullpen when he's ready to pitch. Rookie Luke Hochevar has done well as his replacement, but on the other hand, veteran Brett Tomko has had a rocky going as a starter.
"If we put Johnny back on and he goes in the bullpen, I'm not adamant about a rehab assignment," Hillman said. "As long as Mac [pitching coach Bob McClure] is comfortable and we like what we see."
If Bale is needed as a starter, however, a rehab stint in the Minor Leagues is seen as necessary by Hillman. The book is still open on Tomko, though.
"I have every intention of giving him a couple more starts," Hillman said. "We'll see how he does in his next start, and we'll go from there."
There's also some uncertainty hanging over the bullpen, where right-hander Yasuhiko Yabuta has been struggling. If Bale is brought back as a reliever, the Royals might have to choose between returning Joel Peralta to Triple-A Omaha or sending Yabuta there.
"Peralta is better. I have no reservations in saying that right now," Hillman said. "In consistency in throwing strikes, No. 1, and in consistency of fastball command and second pitches located, he's better there, too."
Hillman dismissed the idea of going with 13 pitchers instead of the current 12. The other issues still are to be decided.
"We'll see what happens," Hillman said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.