Royals-Rays Preview

Kris Medlen is grateful Kansas City was willing to help his comeback from a second elbow surgery. In return, the Royals hope the right-hander can provide some quality innings now that he's part of their rotation.

Looking to further progress from his first start in two years, Medlen tries to pitch the visiting Royals to a seventh consecutive victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

After seven appearances out of the bullpen since returning to the majors July 20, Medlen (2-0, 3.10 ERA) allowed three runs, struck out six without a walk while throwing 69 pitches in six innings of Monday's 8-3 win over Baltimore in his first regular-season start since Sept. 27, 2013.

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''I said from the get-go, I don't want this to be a, `Yay, you made it, kind of thing,'" Medlen said. "I wanted to come out and produce.''

For the time being, Kansas City (79-49) believes Medlen is the best option to replace the ineffective Jeremy Guthrie in the rotation.

"I've said it every interview I've done, I'm so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team," he said. "Right now, it's a different role than it was early on, but (I'm) going to keep working and improving."

Facing the Rays (63-65) for the first time, Medlen tries to help Kansas City record its 17th win in the last 22 games. Kendrys Morales hit a two-run homer and Ben Zobrist had two hits against his former team as the Royals beat Tampa Bay for the 15th time in the last 18 meetings, 3-2 on Friday.

Morales is 6 for 12 with two home runs and four RBIs in the last four games. He's recorded a major league-leading 46 of his total 89 RBIs with two outs.

''He's been consistent all year,'' manager Ned Yost said. ''Got a lot of big hits, picked up a lot of big RBIs. An anchor in the middle of our lineup.''

Zobrist, who played his first nine seasons in Tampa before being traded to Oakland in January then to Kansas City on July 28, is hitting .390 in his last 15 contests.

"I could have easily walked into the other clubhouse and started getting dressed in my old uniform," he said before playing his first game against the Rays on Friday.

Zobrist should square off against a familiar face in Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 3.02), who has not earned a decision in his last five starts to tie the club mark set in 2000 by current Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland.

The right-hander posted a 1.40 ERA while going 3-2 in his first eight home starts before giving up six runs and nine hits in six-plus innings of a 9-6 victory there over Atlanta on Aug. 12. Since, he's allowed three runs in 12-plus innings of his last two that came on the road.

Odorizzi is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Royals.

Eric Hosmer is 4 for 7 with a home run against Odorizzi, but 0 for 11 in four games since hitting .383 with six homers and 33 RBIs in his previous 42 contests.

Tampa Bay's Daniel Nava is 6 for 12 in the last three games after going 0 for 12 in his previous six.