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Maier opening eyes with Royals

Maier opening eyes with Royals

CLEVELAND -- Mitch Maier is finally getting his chance to play.

And he isn't disappointing.

After struggling in the first half of the season as an extra outfielder, Maier has put together a solid second half for the Royals. Going into Sunday's series finale with the Indians, he is one of Kansas City's hottest hitters.

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"I see a lot of growth," manager Trey Hillman said. "I think his confidence level will continue to go up."

The former first-round pick looked promising last season when he hit .286 with no homers and nine RBIs in 34 games for the Royals. Although he didn't make the Opening Day roster this season, it didn't take him long to make it back to the Majors.

When Alex Gordon got hurt in April, the Royals recalled Maier. He started the season well as a fifth outfielder. But then he hit a wall. In June and July, he combined to hit just .190 in 95 at-bats.

After a short six-game demotion to Omaha, Maier was recalled and hasn't looked back since.

He's started or played in virtually every game since the demotion and upped his average to .247. Going into Saturday's game against the Indians, he also had a six-game hitting streak, which ended with an 0-for-4 night.

While Maier's power numbers may not be very high (three homers and 24 RBIs), Hillman thinks it's only a matter of time before those stats improve.

"His swing's a lot better mechanically," Hillman said. "If he can utilize those levers on the appropriate pitches, which I think he will get better at, I think you will see those slugging numbers continue to go up."

Maier has also performed well defensively.

In Monday's game against the Angels, he threw out Kendry Morales at third base. It was his 11th outfield assist of the season, which is third best in the American League. The only question, defensively, for Maier is which outfield position he is best suited for.

He's played 55 games in center, 15 in right and two in left.

"He projects better in right than center," Hillman said. "He has a few less missteps in right. But with the way he plays and the game speed he plays with, I like him in center as well."

Pitching matchup
KC: RHP Kyle Davies (7-9, 5.54 ERA)
Davies picked up his third straight victory last Monday. He gave up just one run to the Angels but lasted only five innings because he not only gave up five hits, he walked a career-high six and used up 96 pitches. Davies has altered his pitching delivery and that's worked so well that against the Angels he was feeling almost too strong and throwing his fastball as hard as he could ever remember. The downside was that Davies couldn't always throw it over the plate. But in his last three outings, he's given up just four earned runs in 17 innings (2.12).

CLE: RHP Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 12.38 ERA)
Carrasco has made two starts at the Major League level, and the results have been uninspiring. He's allowed 11 runs on 17 hits with six walks, seven strikeouts and five homers allowed in eight innings, earning a loss and a no-decision. Facing the Rangers on Tuesday, he allowed five runs on eight hits with three walks, four strikeouts and two homers in five innings. Until Carrasco, who was a key acquisition in the Cliff Lee trade with the Phillies, is able to get more consistent sinking action on his fastball, he'll continue to struggle at this level.

Tidbits
Juan Cruz threw well in a bullpen session Friday. He will have another bullpen session Sunday and if that is successful, he may pitch again Monday. Hillman said that he hopes to have Cruz back by the end of the season. He doesn't expect starters Brian Bannister or Gil Meche back. ... Mark Teahen was a late scratch for Saturday's game against the Indians with lower back spasms. ... David DeJesus became the first outfielder in 17 years to throw out the potential game-winning run at home plate in the bottom of the ninth or later twice in one game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• none

On radio
• KMBZ 980

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Royals (Robinson Tejeda, 2-1, 3.21) at Tigers (Jarrod Washburn, 9-8, 3.60), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Royals (Lenny DiNardo, 0-0, 3.60) at Tigers (TBD), 6:05 p.m. CT

Matt O'Donnell 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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