KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The sizzling hot Royals again will have to deal with adversity after learning that starting center fielder Lorenzo Cain has suffered a strained oblique muscle on his left side and will be out indefinitely.
Cain, who has made numerous defensive gems this season, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. But strains to the oblique, located in the abdomen, often can take much longer to heal than 15 days, and indications are that Cain’s injury will shelve him at least three weeks, maybe more.
The Royals also recalled left-handed pitchers Will Smith and Donnie Joseph from Triple-A Omaha and designated left-hander Francisley Bueno for assignment.
If there was any encouraging news Saturday, it was that catcher Sal Perez, on the seven-day concussion disabled list, appears set to return to the lineup Sunday. Perez continues to improve and progress through the league’s mandatory concussion testing protocol.
“We’ve sent in the paperwork to the league,” manager Ned Yost said, “and if all goes well we could get Sal back (Sunday).”
The Royals also are expected to get right-hander Wade Davis back from bereavement leave on Sunday.
But the big news Saturday was the stunning loss of Cain.
“He went into the cage to hit yesterday,” Yost said, “and he kind of felt something on his first swing. Then he felt it again on his second swing, a little worse. Then he felt it on his third swing and he walked out.”
Yost said the Royals immediately conducted an MRI on Cain and the results confirmed the oblique strain.
“It’s a tough loss but hopefully we have the depth to pick us up,” Yost said.
The Royals now will turn to recently acquired Justin Maxwell to pick up the slack. Maxwell is eight for 17 (.471) since joining the Royals with three homers and six RBIs.
Yost, though, likely will lean on Jarrod Dyson to take Cain’s spot in center much of the time, and use Maxwell in right.
“The glove’s pretty much the same (with Dyson and Cain),” Yost said.
Dyson said he is ready to step up.
“Whatever it takes to help this team keep winning,” Dyson said. “No one wants to be the guy to let us down.”
The DFA of Bueno is mostly a technical procedure, and the Royals expect him to clear waivers and then be optioned back to Omaha. Unlike other DFAs, such as the one of Jeff Francoeur, Bueno is still on the 40-man roster. He simply was designated off the 25-man roster, and if another team claims him — unlikely in the Royals’ minds — they probably would pull him back.
Bueno already has cleared waivers once this season. You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com