Royals may ask Shields, Guthrie to pinch-hit

Royals may ask Shields, Guthrie to pinch-hit

PHOENIX -- It only looks like Royals manager Ned Yost, in this National League rules series, is operating with a four-man bench.

"Six," he said before the opener against the D-backs.

That's because he added starting pitchers James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie to his mix of available hitters which, for Tuesday night's game, included outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Raul Ibanez, infielder Christian Colon and catcher Erik Kratz.

The two pitchers could figure as pinch-hitters, in a real pinch, of course.

"If I get in a situation where I don't want to burn a player, Shields can hit, Guthrie can bunt," Yost said.

The Royals are currently a bench player short because they're carrying 13 pitchers instead of the usual 12. Of course, with no designated hitter in the NL city, they gain a bench man. At the same time, NL games usually account for more lineup changes because of pinch-hitters for pitchers and double switches.

"Shields is a .400 hitter [2-for-5] this year, in case you haven't noticed. He swings the bat all right. We could incorporate him into the game," Yost said.

In his career, Shields has a .222 batting average (10-for-45) with four RBIs -- pretty good for an American League pitcher. Even though he's not scheduled to pitch in this series, he's been taking batting practice anyway.

"Just in case my name gets called to pinch-hit -- and I hope we don't get to that point -- I don't feel like pulling an oblique [muscle] so I thought I'd take a few hacks before this series comes," Shields said.

Guthrie is batting .094 (5-for-53) as a hitter, but he has five sacrifice bunts in his total 60 plate appearances including one this year at San Diego. He's due to pitch here on Thursday night.

"I consider myself a work in progress on bunting," Guthrie said. "There's a difference between being good and being best available. I'm not sure which I am. I'm one or the other."

Pitcher Jason Vargas is an accomplished hitter -- a feared DH in college, who has an impressive .262 (16-for-61) mark in the Majors. But Yost scratched him for now.

"Vargy hasn't hit much since his appendectomy. Shields has been hackin'," Yost said.

So Shields, along with bunter Guthrie, are on call just in case.

"I'm not the greatest hitter in the world, but I can make some contact," Shields said.

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