Vargas was on a 75-pitch limit and manager Ned Yost stuck to it, pulling the left-hander after four innings, one pitch over the set ceiling. He struck out six and gave up four hits in his first outing since May 5. The Yankees won 5-1.
Vargas has not beaten the Yankees in eight starts and nine appearances, dropping to 0-5.
The left-hander hadn't pitched since early May because of a flexor muscle strain. He took the rotation spot of Danny Duffy, who was placed on the DL Monday with biceps tendinitis.
Left-hander Brandon Finnegan was optioned to Triple-A Omaha to make room for Vargas. Finnegan was recalled Monday, and he pitched three hitless innings in relief of Jeremy Guthrie during the Royals' 14-1 loss to New York.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.