CHICAGO -- First baseman Kila Ka'aihue joined the Royals on Wednesday after being recalled from Triple-A Omaha in lieu of the club's decision to place outfielder Rick Ankiel on the disabled list with a right quad strain. For Ka'aihue, it's his first shot at the big leagues during the meat of a season. His only prior experience came during the expanded rosters period in 2008.
"Very much so," said Ka'aihue about whether this was a big day for him. "I'm really excited to be here."
What's not yet clear is how much playing time there will be for Ka'aihue, with Billy Butler and Jose Guillen entrenched at first base and designated hitter, respectively. What is clear is that if Ka'aihue can translate his Minor League production to the big leagues, he can help a Royals lineup that ranks 13th in the league in walks. Ka'aihue was hitting .304, with seven homers, 20 RBIs and a Pacific Coast League-leading 24 walks.
"If Kila is in the starting lineup, it means Jose is probably in right. It means Mitch Maier might have the day off. It means Billy might DH," said Royals manager Trey Hillman.
Like many patient hitters, plate discipline has always been a featured part of Ka'aihue's game, but he's worked on not being overly passive.
"[Patience] has always been a part of my game, but I've tried to become more conscientious about not taking too many pitches," Ka'aihue said. "If I can, I let it go a little bit more."
Another avenue for getting Ka'aihue playing time may be for Hillman to pinch-hit more often in the late innings. Entering Wednesday's game in Chicago, the Royals were tied for last in the American League with five plate appearances by pinch-hitters.
"He's doing a lot of good things offensively and doing some good things at first base," said Hillman. "It's good to have somebody that's hot right now, especially a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark."
For Ka'aihue, it's just good to be back in the big leagues, no matter what role he eventually plays.
"They haven't really told me much of anything," said Ka'aihue about his potential role. "I'm just going to get my opportunities and try to make the best of it."
One adjustment for Royals fans will be learning to pronounce Ka'aihue's phonetically challenging last name. Here it is, from the man himself: Kie-uh-HOO-ee.