Kendall, 38 and with 15 Major League seasons behind him, has signed a Minor League contract with the Royals and reported to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Thursday to resume his playing career. He's scheduled to start at catcher on Friday night at Springfield.
Kendall missed the entire 2011 season after twice undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. He's been with the Royals since Spring Training rehabilitating his shoulder and acting as an unofficial coach and adviser.
"It's just giving him an opportunity to see where he's at," manager Ned Yost said. "We like our two catchers that are here [Salvador Perez and Brayan Pena], but you know how quickly things can turn. The more depth you have down there, especially in terms of Major League experience, is very valuable. He doesn't know if he can do it. He feels good, he's working hard, he's taking his rehab to a point where he feels like he can play so he's going to give it a shot."
Kendall was the Royals' regular catcher in 2010, his first season with the team, when his shoulder finally gave out in August. He underwent extensive surgery in September. While rehabbing, he had further injury and had a second surgery in July 2011. After a year of recovery, he's been able to throw and hit well enough to give it a try.
"I've always known that Jason is not going to go down like that," Pena said. "He's a great competitor. I'm pretty sure that he feels a lot better because obviously he's back playing. I wish him nothing but the best because he's been great to me. He's been a great teammate for all of us. Now he's got to get back to his old form and go from there."
While with the Royals this season and last, Kendall has helped many younger pitchers and catchers and there's no doubt he'll do the same with Northwest Arkansas. He'll be sharing catching time with Manny Pina, back after undergoing knee surgery last spring.
"Every time that we have a question or something like that, he doesn't hesitate to give you an answer or at least to help you to find out what is best for you and your team," Pena said. "That's what Jason Kendall is. He's one of the guys that's very passionate about the game, and I've got a lot of respect for him."
Kendall was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates and also played for the A's, Cubs and Brewers. In 2010, he became just the fifth player in history to catch 2,000 games.
"He's a trouper," said Pena, who was Kendall's backup in 2010. "He's a guy that goes out there and tries to do his best every time that I saw him here. I assume that he's going to get back in form quick, and hopefully he can be healthy because he's a great leader and he taught me a lot while I was working with him."