KANSAS CITY -- Luis Mendoza has been watching the Little League World Series all week cheering for Mexico and waiting for a game against Panama, so he could start a little friendly rivalry with Bruce Chen. Thursday afternoon, that game came, and Felipe Paulino, whose locker separates Mendoza and Chen said he was there to keep things civil.
"Yeah, we're not talking," Chen said playfully.
In all seriousness, Mendoza said he likes watching the tournament because of the great opportunity it offers for kids.
"It's something good for kids, especially in Mexico because Mexico is not really a baseball country," Mendoza said. "It's more soccer, so I wish more kids could play baseball."
He grew up playing baseball and even made it to the elimination rounds out of state, but never to the big tournament. He said at that age, it's most important that the players are just enjoying the games.
"They are too young to really know if they want to do this for a living, but just enjoy the game and it is good that they are playing sports to stay active and stay away from other things," Mendoza said.
Mexico gave Mendoz bragging rights with a 4-2 victory to advance to the International Final.
Yost moves run producers to top of lineup
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals need some run production and manager Ned Yost is turning to his power hitters for help. Before Thursday night's matchup with the White Sox, Yost moved Alex Gordon back to the leadoff spot, with Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Billy Butler rounding out the top of the order.
"The four guys at the top of the order are our run producers and when they're producing, we're doing OK. Generally, when they're not, we're struggling," Yost said. "It's four guys we have a lot of confidence in and as soon as they get back on track is when we'll get back on track."
The sooner, the better since the Royals had lost four straight games and seven of their last nine while scoring three runs or fewer in eight of them.
"They've all been out of their approach here lately, swinging at pitchers' pitches instead of sitting and waiting for a pitch that they can drive," Yost said. "It just gets them refocused on what they are trying to accomplish every time they step into the box."
In the same nine-game stretch, the Royals batted just .217 (66-for-304) and a measly .118 (9-for-76) with runners in scoring position.
"There's not a lot I can do," Yost said. "These guys have to go out there and produce, but the one thing I can do is put them in a different spot, give them a different mindset, and see if that gets them going. Every once in a while they just need something to get them going, just a change or something to get them going a little bit. I'm hoping this will get them all going."
Backstop repaired after two balls disappear
KANSAS CITY -- Perhaps the rash of disappearing baseballs has been cured.
On Thursday, workmen installed a new mesh sign behind home plate where a baseball had vanished during back-to-back Royals-White Sox games at Kauffman Stadium.
An Ervin Santana pitch got past catcher Salvador Perez for a passed ball on Tuesday night and broke through the sign commemorating the stadium's 40th anniversary. It disappeared -- poof! It was ruled a dead ball and the White Sox scored a run. It also was a ballpark first.
"That's why they call me 'Magic,' " Santana said. "Disappearing balls."
The tear was patched with tape afterward and a new mesh sign was ordered. But it didn't arrive in time for Wednesday night's game and, against all odds, a wild pitch from Jeremy Guthrie hit in virtually the same spot and dropped out of sight through the weakened area.
Once again Perez was chasing a ball that vanished. Holy horseside! What could be done?
"Pitchers got to throw strikes," Perez said slyly.
At any rate, the new sign arrived and was installed on Thursday afternoon with a 1-by-6 (inches) board behind it at the top to provide additional stability. The material has to be mesh to allow sound to penetrate to the three microphones installed behind the sign to pick up crowd and on-field noise for radio and TV.
The sign, mounted between two rotational advertising boards, was later tested with thrown baseballs. They did not disappear and bounced back toward home plate.
Recycling events to be held Friday, Saturday
KANSAS CITY -- This weekend the Royals, Interstate Batteries, Players for the Planet and Bridging the Gap are joining forces for a pair of electronics recycling events. Fans who bring old electronics and used batteries will receive two View Level tickets to an upcoming 2013 regular-season game.
The first event will be held Friday in Overland Park at Interstate All Battery Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT, with appearances by Chris Getz and Mike Moustakas. The second event will be held at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Lot L, with Jeremy Guthrie scheduled to appear from noon to 1 p.m.
A donation of $10 is suggested for each CRT monitor or TV. A full list of eligible items can be found at www.royals.com/battery.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.