MINNEAPOLIS — The All-Star menu next week at Kauffman Stadium will include a hometown specialty: Country Breakfast.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Designated hitter Billy Butler learned Sunday morning he will represent the Royals as a reserve on the American League team in 83rd All-Star Game on July 10 at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m so happy that it’s going to be at our ballpark. I know that fans are going to be real happy for me. They’ve always been great to me. It’s just an awesome time for me.”
Butler will join manager Ned Yost and trainer Nick Kenney on the American League squad. Yost will serve as a coach under Texas manager Ron Washington. The starters for both leagues and all but one reserve were announced Sunday afternoon on TBS.
The Royals have a chance to get a second player on the AL team. Right-handed closer Jonathan Broxton is one of five candidates in the Final Vote competition, which determines the 34th player on each roster.
That 34th player is determined through an online vote that runs through 3 p.m. Thursday at MLB.com and Royals.com. The other candidates are also pitchers: Yu Darvish, Texas; Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles; Jason Hammel, Baltimore; and Jake Peavy, Chicago.
“There are a couple of other guys in (the Royals’ clubhouse) who are deserving, too,” said Butler, whose nicknames include Country Breakfast and Big Bill. “Brox is in the Final Vote, and I wish him the best. I hope he gets in there. He’s as deserving as I am.
“I’m just happy to be a Royal and to get to represent the Royals at the All-Star Game.”
Two former Royals outfielders were voted by fans to be starters for the National League: Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals and Melky Cabrera of the Giants. Toronto outfielder José Bautista, voted as an AL starter, played briefly for the Royals.
Washington chose Butler as one of his managerial choices, in consultation with major-league officials, after the players’ vote supplemented the fans’ selections.
“Butler’s having an outstanding year,” Washington said. “I felt like he was deserving. Also, he gives me a bat off the bench.”
It’s worth noting that Washington chose Butler after opting for his own shortstop, Elvis Andrus, over Alcides Escobar.
Butler, at age 26, is already well-established as the club’s most reliable hitter, and he currently leads the Royals with 16 homers, 48 RBIs and a .512 slugging percentage. His .297 average and .365 on-base percentage rank second on the club.
“He’s consistent,” Yost said. “He’s under the radar. Even in Kansas City, he’s way under the radar. He’s there every day doing his job as well as anybody on our team. I don’t want to say better than anybody else but, really, better than everybody else.”
Butler is also gaining a reputation this season for delivering in the clutch. He has 16 go-ahead RBIs, including all three of the club’s eight-inning game-winners. Butler also launched a two-out homer in the ninth inning at St. Louis that led to a 15-inning victory.
“People have no idea how in-depth Billy is when it comes to hitting,” Yost said. “The thing about Billy is this…some hitters can hit, but can’t hit really good pitching. He can hit really good pitching. He’s the total package when it comes to an offensive player.”
Butler expressed a willingness to participate next Monday in the Home Run Derby. The AL entry will be picked by Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, the AL Derby captain who has already indicated a preference to include a Royals player.
“I would definitely be interested in that,” Butler said. “Especially in our ballpark, it would be great. I think it would be a lot of fun. I think fans would be real excited to have one of their own in the Home Run Derby.
“Obviously, that’s up to Robinson Cano. There are a lot of guys out there on that team who would do a great job on that. But if I get asked, I would love to do it.”
This marks the sixth time in seven years that the Royals will be represented by a first-time All-Star. Reliever Aaron Crow was the club’s sole selection for the 2011 game at Arizona.
All-Star Week starts Friday when the FanFest opens at 8:30 a.m. at Bartle Hall. The Futures Game is Sunday followed by, a week from today, the Workout Day and Home Run Derby. The 83rd All-Star Game is July 10.
The Royals selected Butler in the first round of the 2004 draft and, after winning two batting titles in three years, he reached the majors in 2007. He agreed to a four-year contract prior to the 2011 season that includes a club option for 2015.
Butler is already climbing the offensive charts among the franchise’s career leaders. He ranked eighth in doubles, 11th in RBIs and 12th in homers. His .297 career average trails only George Brett and Mike Sweeney among players with at least 1,600 at-bats.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Butler said. “You can’t predict that you’ll ever be on there again. There are all of these accolades, but the only (individual) thing you can that’s higher is an MVP or Silver Slugger (award).
“You want to get into post-season and get a World Series ring. Those are the only things that are higher than this, and some of those are out of your control. This is a very high honor, and I’m very proud to get it.”
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/Royals_Report.