Eibner hits first career homer in return from DL

Eibner hits first career homer in return from DL

KANSAS CITY -- When Royals rookie outfielder Brett Eibner sprained his ankle two weeks ago, it interrupted what appeared to be a dream-like beginning for him in the big leagues.

Eibner had been 6-of-13 (.462), and that included his first career walk-off hit, before the injury put him on the disabled list.

Eibner returned from the DL on Thursday, just in time to be penciled in the starting lineup against the Tigers. It looked like Eibner never left. The Royals' No. 22 prospect singled in a run off Justin Verlander in the second inning, then socked his first career home run off Detroit's former American League Cy Young Award winner in the fifth in the Royals' 10-4 loss.

Eibner's RBI single

"I was hitting the ball hard with Omaha [on rehab]," Eibner said. "My first couple of games there, I was really squaring the ball up. I kind of tried to do too much my last couple of games there instead of staying within my approach.

"So, I made sure tonight, especially with Paulo [Orlando] on third early in the game, I wanted to get that done and get that run in. I kind of choked up and made sure I got a pitch I could handle."

Eibner's homer off Verlander is one he'll likely never forget. He drilled a fastball over the right-center-field wall. Statcast™ estimated the ball would have traveled 422 feet.

"I'm always looking to hit every pitch," Eibner said. "I got to be aggressive, especially against a guy like that with the stuff he has and the history he has. I can't afford to miss pitches, especially against him, so I jumped it."

Eibner said he didn't know if someone had retrieved the ball for him yet.

"I haven't asked," Eibner said.

To make room for Eibner, the Royals shipped outfielder Reymond Fuentes back to Omaha.

Fuentes made an error on Wednesday night in a 9-4 win over Cleveland. Royals manager Ned Yost stressed that Fuentes needs to work on his defense back with Omaha.

Tigers catcher James McCann, who also homered Thursday, played with Eibner at the University of Arkansas.

"His talent's off the charts," McCann said. "That's apparent in how high he was drafted [second round, 2010]. Unfortunately, since he's gotten into pro ball, he's just had so many injuries that derailed him for a little while. But you see what he's doing. He's got the ability.

"I'll be honest with you: He's one of the most God-gifted athletes I've ever been around. He can run. He can throw. He pitched in college for us, and he sat 96-99 [mph, as a pitcher]."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.