At least in Omaha, Brett Hayes is playing.
Hayes, the catcher who was one of Kansas City's last cuts at the end of spring training, had four hits — including two homers — and had a Werner Park-record seven RBIs Sunday in the Storm Chasers' 11-2 victory against Nashville in front of 4,256.
Hayes missed in his bid for the Royals' backup catcher job that went to George Kottaras. Kottaras still hasn't made his season debut as Kansas City has ridden talented and durable young starter Salvador Perez thus far.
“If I was there, who knows — that's just how the games have been playing out so far,” Hayes said. “But I'm worried about what I'm doing here right now, and I'm sure George will get in there at some point up there and do some damage. He's playing behind a guy who is pretty special.”
With the Royals' Class AAA team in Omaha, Hayes has been splitting time with Adam Moore behind the plate. Max Ramirez is also a catcher by trade who has spent much of his time with Omaha as the designated hitter.
The Royals claimed Hayes on waivers during the offseason, then slipped him through waivers and assigned him to Omaha earlier this month.
Hayes had been 1 for 10 before his 4-for-4 Sunday.
“Outstanding day,” manager Mike Jirschele said. “And he's been swinging the bat well, every opportunity he's had. He's had some hard luck where he's squared balls up, but hit them right at people.”
Jirschele said the plan is for Moore to catch four days a week and Hayes three.
“The situation we're in, whenever our name is called we just want to go out and play as hard as we can and whatever happens, happens,” Hayes said. “We're just trying to win some ballgames.”
Hayes broke a 2-2, third-inning tie with a three-run homer off top Milwaukee pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg (0-1). Hayes, who had a two-run double in the first inning, launched his first homer of the season onto the concourse beyond the left-field berm.
After singling and scoring on Willy Taveras' three-run triple in the sixth, Hayes went opposite field for a two-run homer off Jim Hoey in the seventh.
Hayes had half of the four hits allowed by Thornburg, who walked one and struck out three in five innings.
“He's got some power stuff — mid-90s fastball, good cutter, sharp curveball,” Hayes said. “He's obviously got great stuff and showed it. He threw me a couple of pitches that were up that I took advantage of, but otherwise he did an excellent job.”
Omaha's last two-homer game by an individual was last July 30, by Wil Myers. The Chasers hadn't had a seven-RBI game since Lorenzo Cain did so May 14, 2011, while hitting for the cycle against Colorado Springs.
Hayes, a former All-Western Athletic Conference catcher at Nevada, had a two-homer, seven-RBI game while rehabbing with high Class A Jupiter in 2010.
Omaha veteran Brian Sanches (1-0) pitched 523 solid innings for the win, allowing two runs on four hits while walking one and striking out four.
“He's the type of pitcher who moves the ball both ways away from the plate,” Jirschele said. “These guys (Nashville) like the fastball, and he's the kind of guy they can struggle with because he's throwing his off-speed for strikes and mixing in just enough fastballs to keep them honest.”
STORM TRACKING: Omaha made defensive switches in the ninth inning as Taveras was excused to catch an early-evening flight. Taveras' wife was close to going into labor. … Chad Tracy (calf) is eligible to come off the disabled list if Taveras is taken off the active roster. … The Chasers improved to 22-4 at home in the month of April since Werner Park opened in 2011. … Ramirez was a late scratch from the starting lineup. He injured a pinkie finger after stepping on it while putting on a pad. … New Orleans' Ruben Gotay had held the park record with six RBIs in a 2011 game.
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