Orlando in battle to qualify for AL batting race

Orlando in battle to qualify for AL batting race

ST. LOUIS -- The one potential drawback to Royals manager Ned Yost's experiment of having Kendrys Morales play in right field in National League parks is that it does take precious plate appearances away from Paulo Orlando, who has been at the center of some playful fan chatter regarding an American League batting title.

Naturally, Yost and the Royals' only priority is winning, and the red-hot Morales needs to stay in the lineup. And Morales was back in right field on Thursday against the Cardinals, while Jarrod Dyson, a left-handed hitter, started again in center field against right-hander Mike Leake.

That left Orlando and his .337 average on the bench. Orlando is in a race to get enough plate appearances to qualify for the AL batting race.

MLB rules state hitters must average 3.1 plate appearances per team game to qualify. Entering Thursday, Orlando had 191, 47 shy of what he would have needed through 77 games.

Orlando's RBI single

"You know, I don't really think about that much," Orlando said. "My job is to do whatever I can to help the team win. I don't worry about [batting titles]."

Actually, Orlando is as surprised as anyone about his lofty average. He hit .249 last season as a rookie with the Royals, and was a career .275 hitter in the Minors.

"I've never hit like this, nothing like this," Orlando said, smiling. "I can't really explain this. I do a lot more studying of video this year and I think that helps. I know more about the pitchers."

About a week ago, Orlando was up in the high .350s, which would have led the AL had he qualified at the time. A 5-for-23 skid has brought his average down.

Once the Royals get back to playing AL teams, Orlando likely again will become Yost's primary right fielder. Orlando then will need about 40-50 games to qualify, if he plays regularly.

Yost simply is glad he has some options in right field.

"It's been really impressive to watch him," Yost said. "When he first got hot, it was like, 'OK, let's ride this for as long as we can.' But he hasn't really slowed down."

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.