Aoki returns early, back in leadoff spot for now

One more adventurous night from Raul Ibanez in the outfield Thursday night was enough for the Royals to speed up Nori Aoki's return to the club.

The Royals had initially planned for Nori Aoki to return after the All-Star break. 

Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One more adventurous night from Raul Ibanez in the outfield Thursday night was enough for the Royals to speed up Nori Aoki's return to the club.

The Royals activated Aoki on Friday and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup. Aoki had been on a rehab assignment at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and was not expected to be activated until after the All-Star break.

But Ibanez committed one error Thursday night against the Tigers, and has not been able to run down several others since he was signed 11 days ago.

Manager Ned Yost, though, insisted it was more about fatigue with Ibanez.

"It's tough for him to go all four games here," Yost said before Friday night's game.

However, before Thursday's game, Yost said Ibanez would have no trouble playing all four.

To make room for Aoki, the Royals sent infielder Christian Colon back to Triple-A Omaha.

Aoki was set to return to his normal spot in right field, while Jarrod Dyson got his first start of the year in left field. Lorenzo Cain was in center.

"(Dyson) can play left -- he's versatile enough," Yost said.

Yost also inserted Aoki into the top spot in the order, bumping Cain to No. 2, which likely will cause some discontent among Royals fans.

Cain is hitting .338 with an .890 OPS since being moved to the leadoff spot.

Yost, though, said Aoki wasn't necessarily returning to the top spot permanently.

"Just likely until (Alex Gordon) gets back," Yost said.

That likely will be next Friday after the break when the Royals start a road trip through Boston and Chicago.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.