With Hillman grieving, Gibbons manages

With Hillman grieving, Gibbons manages

OAKLAND -- The circumstances are sad, with Trey Hillman back in Texas because of a family death, but bench coach John Gibbons is a willing stand-in as Royals manager.

"Trey's father-in-law passed away, I guess in the middle of the night," Gibbons said on Monday. "I haven't spoken with him today, but it's been a tough time. It's unfortunate circumstances."

The managerial cap fits right on Gibbons, who'll be handling the club through the three-game series against Oakland. He was the skipper for Toronto from Aug. 9, 2004, until June 20, 2008. This year, he joined Hillman's staff as the top dugout adviser.

Earlier this season, Gibbons subbed as manager for three games (he lost all three) and, as a temporary replacement, he takes his cues from Hillman's style.

"I've got a good idea of how he does things and what he wants to do so I'll just run with that," Gibbons said.

During his Blue Jays years, his teams compiled a 305-305 record and never made the playoffs.

The highlight of his managerial career there?

"When they fired me and sent me home with pay?" he said with a wry grin.

Then Gibbons got a bit more serious.

"Actually, the first win was [on my first day as manager] in Yankee Stadium. Josh Towers, of all people, set down the Yankees," Gibbons said. "That was a highlight because it was the first and where it happened."

There's no doubt that Gibbons, who also managed seven years in the Mets' system and at times against Hillman in their Minor League days, still enjoys running a ballclub.

"Once it's in your blood, it's kind of fun to do. The circumstances aren't great, you know, but it's definitely a thrill," he said, then paused a tick.

"I don't miss all the stuff that goes with it -- the headaches that come with the job. But it's always fun."

And, let's see, with his previous bench coach, Eddie Rodriguez, gone off to manage Team USA in the World Cup competition, who will be Gibbons' bench coach in this series?

"Billy Duplissea," he said as Duplissea, the Royals' bullpen catcher, happened to walk past.

So that's how it is -- ex-catcher Gibbons wants to keep things within the catcher's union. Duplissea, who used to catch in the Dodgers' organization, has been warming up the Royals' pitchers for four years.

"That's kind of what it takes, from bullpen catcher to manager," Gibbons said. "That's what my first job was."

Duplissea just smiled and headed for the bullpen.

Pitching matchup
KC: RHP Kyle Davies (5-9, 5.94 ERA)
Davies wobbled at times in his past start at Seattle, but made big pitches when he had to and gave up just two runs in six innings. He gave up five hits and three walks. Davies felt he made more progress in refining his pitching motion to give him increased command, especially with his fastball. Now he's won two of his last four starts and he has 20 strikeouts in those games, a good sign. This will be his first start against Oakland this year; in his career, he has faced the A's three times and has a 1-1 mark and a 4.02 ERA.

OAK: RHP Edgar Gonzalez (0-1, 5.24 ERA)
Gonzalez, who was brought to Spring Training to compete for a starting job but opened the season at Triple-A Sacramento, was called up on May 19 and made two starts, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. His past 19 outings have come out of the bullpen, with an ERA of 5.20, but he's being moved back into a starting role because the A's will employ a six-man rotation in the season's final month in an effort to lighten the load of their four rookie starters. Gonzalez most recently faced the Royals on Aug. 8 and allowed four earned runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings.

Crown points
Third baseman Alex Gordon's sore right shoulder is not believed to be a serious injury, according to general manager Dayton Moore. "His strength is good and he's going to DH tonight [Monday for Omaha]," Moore said. ... On another front, Moore had nothing new to report on the efforts to sign the Royals' first-round Draft choice, pitcher Aaron Crow. "We were working toward an agreement, but there's nothing to report today," he said. Though the deadline for signing Draft picks has passed, Crow is not affected, because he is out of college eligibility. ... Nugget on Zack Greinke: His one-hitter following a 15-strikeout performance marked the fourth time that's been done in Major League history. He joins Vida Blue (A's) in 1971, Randy Johnson (Mariners) in 1998 and Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) in 1999. ... Tony Pena Jr. got his first victory as a pitcher with Class A Burlington, Iowa, on Sunday. He threw three shutout innings and struck out five in an 8-5 victory at Beloit. In his past seven innings, he's given up no runs and just one hit and one walk with nine strikeouts. ... Right fielder Jose Guillen (partially torn right knee ligament) ran the bases and took batting practice on Monday and might be ready to come off the disabled list on Tuesday when rosters can expand beyond 25. "I don't know what's going to happen. He looked pretty good, actually," Gibbons said.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Royals (Brian Bannister, 7-11, 4.60) at Athletics (Trevor Cahill, 7-12, 4.64), 2:35 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Royals (Gil Meche, 6-10, 5.09) vs. Angels (Trevor Bell, 1-1, 10.80), 7:10 p.m. CT

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.