KC@DET: Aoki spans the field to make a nice catch

DETROIT -- Right fielder Nori Aoki was back in the Royals' lineup on Thursday and played through the 2-1 loss to the Tigers after missing Wednesday's game.

But the groin problem that struck during Tuesday night's game hasn't completely healed.

"I'm not 100 percent, but it's to the point where I can play and I feel like I can get better as I play," Aoki said.

Aoki had two hits with a run on Thursday, but he believed, if completely healthy, that his drive to deep right-center in the first inning could have been a triple instead of a double.

Flu-like symptoms keep Gordon out of lineup

Must C Catch: Alex Gordon lays out to save a run

DETROIT -- Left fielder Alex Gordon dressed slowly and deliberately as if every move was an effort after the Royals' 2-1 loss on Thursday. He was a late scratch from Kansas City's lineup because of a bout with the flu.

Gordon, who hadn't missed a game all season, had been listed in his usual fifth spot in the batting order against the Tigers. And he was sick enough that he wasn't available to pinch-hit or anything else.

Jarrod Dyson took over in left field, his first career start at that position.

"Alex got sick. He came in today, had the flu, gave it a valiant effort," manager Ned Yost said. "We pumped two bags of IV fluid into him, he felt better and started to get in the weight room and do his stuff. He was going to give it a shot and went in the cage and took like three swings and started throwing up again."

Gordon was 6-for-14 in the first three games of the Detroit series, all Royals wins. He's reached base on a hit or a walk in 27 of his past 29 games.

Asked how he was feeling, Gordon said: "Sick." Feeling any better? "No."

Chen eyeing return to Royals after rehab success

CWS@KC: Chen fans seven over 6 1/3 to limit White Sox

DETROIT -- Left-hander Bruce Chen celebrated his 37th birthday on Thursday and soon might be celebrating his return to the Royals' active roster.

After an impressive rehab start for Triple-A Omaha on Wednesday -- he struck out 11 in 5 1/3 innings, giving up just three hits and two runs -- Chen will catch up with the Royals on Friday as they open a homestand against Seattle.

He's been out since April 25 with a bulging disk in his back.

"We'll see how he rebounds," manager Ned Yost said. "Generally if you're going to feel something, it'll be the next day or two. We'll throw him on the side, probably Saturday, and see."

Could Chen fit into the bullpen as a long man, something the Royals haven't had of late?

"He could," Yost said. "We haven't really needed one. It's nice to have it, though, when you do need it."

Third baseman Danny Valencia is rehabbing from a left hand strain with Omaha, going 3-for-8 with a home run in his two games.

"He's doing OK," Yost said. "It's just more getting at-bats and making sure his hand feels strong enough to compete."

Crown points

A large crowd, possibly a sellout, is expected when the hot Royals return to Kansas City for Friday night's game against the Seattle Mariners.

The club said, however, that tickets are still available.

Before the game will be the annual "Big Slick" sponge ball game at the Little K, with entertainers Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Rob Riggle and Eric Stonestreet among the players. There will also be postgame fireworks.