KANSAS CITY -- Infielder Jayson Nix checked into the Royals' clubhouse on Saturday and, for a while, thought he might go right into the starting lineup.
"I was kind of expecting to be," he said, "but ..."
But during batting practice, Omar Infante was declared ready to return to the lineup at second base after missing four games with a sore right shoulder.
So Infante was batting second against the Indians and Nix started his Kansas City career on the bench, which was the role for which he was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Thursday.
As the game wore on, Nix was pressed into service at first base in the ninth inning after Billy Butler was taken out for a pinch-runner. Normally a middle infielder or third baseman, this was Nix's first turn at first base in the Major Leagues and he handled three chances flawlessly. He had played 12 games at first this year, though, for Triple-A Durham.
Nix batted twice and struck out both times in the 11-inning, 3-2 loss to the Indians.
Nix was required to report by Saturday and go onto the 25-man roster, so the Royals optioned infielder Christian Colon to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Unlike Nix, Colon still had Minor League options remaining and he was expected to play for the Naturals during his stay.
The move was anticipated and it's just temporary. Colon -- along with recently-optioned pitchers Aaron Crow and Liam Hendriks -- will return to Kansas City on Tuesday after Northwest Arkansas' season ends. Colon started at second base in Infante's absence the previous four nights.
Infante was cleared to play after a pregame workout, designed mainly to test his arm for the ability to throw with a minimum of pain.
Untll then, manager Ned Yost was uncertain if Infante was going to play.
"He's probably at about 80 percent right now, which is good enough to play, but we're trying to get him in a spot to where he's somewhere between 90 and 95," Yost said. "So that's something that's going to be there, but it won't affect him once he gets going."
This is the latest in a series of ailments for Infante. In Spring Training, he had both a sore shoulder and sore elbow. Early in the season, he was struck in the face by a pitched ball and went on the disabled list with a sore back.
So he's had some interruptions in his first Kansas City season.
"But he's just a couple of RBIs away from his all-time high," Yost said. "That's the hope when he gets back this time, he's going to feel good and get real hot for the last three weeks and roll."
Actually, Infante has already reached his career high this year with 59 RBIs.
Nix, 32, was picked up to provide experienced infield depth for the September postseason push.
"That's ideal, it's really exciting -- especially here with the first time they've been in a race for a while," Nix said.
Nix doesn't have to go back far for his last experience in a race for the postseason.
"Last year with the Yankees," he said. "We didn't make the playoffs, but we were in it pretty much the whole year until the end. And in 2012, we won the division and went to the ALCS."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less