KANSAS CITY -- Mitch Maier, a dependable and popular backup outfielder for the Royals in 2008-12, has rejoined the organization by signing a Minor League contract with Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Maier, 31, played for Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston system last year and went to Spring Training this year with the Chicago Cubs, but he was released. After that, Maier underwent back surgery for a herniated disc and is currently in a rehabilitation program.
"He's going to rehab at Northwest Arkansas," said Royals assistant general manager/player personnel J.J. Picollo. "We thought it'd give him a chance to get back on the field in the long run. We're probably looking at July or August by the time he's able to be full go, but just with his baseball knowledge and presence, we thought it'd be good to give him that chance and to have our players around him. It's kind of a player-mentor situation."
Maier played most of his Royals games in 2009 and '10. In a total of 360 games over five seasons, he batted .248 with 10 home runs and 93 RBIs. He once played 190 consecutive games without an error. In 2011, Maier was pressed into duty as a pitcher and worked a scoreless inning at Boston.
In 2003, Maier was a first-round pick (30th overall) in the First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Toledo.
"He can help some of our young players while he's rehabbing and we can help him get back on the field, whether it be with us and another club," Picollo said. "It's a win-win for him and for us."
Picollo sees Maier as potential coaching material when his playing days are over.
"It's a good move," manager Ned Yost said. "I love Mitch Maier."
Chen scratched from start, lands on DL
KANSAS CITY -- Left-hander Bruce Chen was scratched from his Saturday start against the Tigers, and the Royals put him on the 15-day disabled list Friday.
The move was made retroactive to April 25. Right-hander Aaron Brooks was recalled from Triple-A Omaha.
Chen was supposed to throw a side session Thursday to test his readiness to pitch after missing a scheduled start Wednesday night because of lower back problems.
"He just didn't feel good," manager Ned Yost said. "His back was still stiff and he still felt some pain, even when he was warming up. He didn't even get to the mound."
Left-hander Danny Duffy, despite big problems in his past two relief outings, will substitute for Chen on Saturday.
Duffy was sent to Omaha at the end of Spring Training to get stretched out as a starting pitcher in case the Kansas City rotation needed help. However, after one start, he was recalled from Omaha to shore up KC's bullpen.
His first four outings went well as he pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings with five hits and two walks given up and 11 strikeouts. The next two appearances, however, were eyesores.
Saturday night in the 10th inning at Baltimore, he faced three batters. Duffy hit the first one, then fielded two successive bunts and made throwing errors on both. That ended his outing and Louis Coleman gave up the game-ending hit in a 3-2 Orioles win. Wednesday night against the Blue Jays, Duffy took over in the sixth and immediately hit one batter and walked the next. He was pulled immediately but both runners scored for a 2-2 tie. The Royals went on to win, 4-2.
"I believe he'll be fine," Yost said. "I'll have some coverage if I need it."
Yost estimated he could throw 65 to 70 pitches, so another pitcher would have to be designated to "piggyback" with him.
"We get through Friday and we'll have a better idea of formulating a game plan on who's available and who's not available," Yost said.
Chen had been bothered by what was described as a gluteal muscle strain for about four weeks. Earlier this week it was determined that he had a disc issue as well and he was given an epidural injection.
"I talked to Nick [Kenney, head trainer] about it and he thinks it's going to progress quickly and it shouldn't be much past the 15-day ordeal, but you've got to go day-to-day with it," Yost said.
"He's got a disc that's bulging against one of his nerves and these injections shrink the disc and calm the inflammation down. It's just waiting for that to happen."
Yost speculated that Chen would be ready to pitch before his time on the DL expires.
Cain, Bueno set for rehab stints with Omaha
KANSAS CITY -- Center fielder Lorenzo Cain will begin his Minor League rehabilitation assignment on Friday as the designated hitter for Triple-A Omaha against Oklahoma City.
Left-handed reliever Francisley Bueno also will join Omaha for his rehab on Saturday.
Cain has been out since April 16 with a left groin strain, while Bueno has been out since April 7 with a bruised and sprained left little finger.
Valencia likely to get more starts vs. lefties
KANSAS CITY -- Right-handed-hitting Danny Valencia will probably get more starting assignments at third base against left-handed pitchers, Royals manager Ned Yost reaffirmed on Thursday.
Valencia started Thursday night's game against Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle. Regular third baseman Mike Moustakas, off to a .149 start entering Thursday's series finale, has struggled against lefties.
"We'll go day-to-day with it," Yost said. "It just depends on the matchup. But for the foreseeable future, yeah, probably."
Valencia had no luck against Buehrle, going 0-for-3 against him in the Royals' 7-3 loss. He also struck out against lefty reliever Aaron Loup.
This season, Valencia is 3-for-13 against lefty pitchers; Moustakas is 1-for-11.
Royals with four picks among Draft's first 68
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals are one of only three teams that will have four selections within the first 68 picks of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on June 5, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday.
The Royals will have the Nos. 17, 28, 40 and 56 picks. They picked up No. 28 as compensation for the Braves' signing of pitcher Ervin Santana and No. 40 in the competitive balance lottery. The Indians and the Marlins are the other two clubs with four.
"I don't think we've had four picks that quickly in some time," said Royals assistant general manager-player personnel J.J. Picollo.
"Ultimately, that's how the powers-that-be want the Draft designed. The teams that lose good free agents get a pick for them, and if you're one of those 13 teams that have a chance for that competitive lottery pick, it's an extra pick versus the other 17 teams. So it's worked out well."
In addition, the Royals are among just six clubs that will have two first-round selections.
• The Royals will make their first appearance on Fox Sports 1, the new 24-hour sports network, with their game against Detroit on Saturday night. Aimed at a national audience, the coverage is slated to begin at 6 p.m. CT. Justin Kutcher and Eric Karros will be the announcers.
Viewers can find a list of channels by visiting FoxSports1.com.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.