Billy Butler’s conversion to a full-time designated hitter paid a major dividend Thursday night when he became the first Royals player to win a Silver Slugger award in 14 years.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The award, which dates to 1980, is given annually to the top offensive player in each league at each position as determined by a vote of managers and coaches.
Butler became the Royals’ DH in May 2011 to accommodate the promotion of first baseman Eric Hosmer from the minors. Butler initially chafed at the move – but no longer.
“That’s my role,” he said, “and I’ve accepted that and I’m fine with it. I’m going to do it to the best of my ability and I’m going to continue to try and work harder each day to hone in on my skills.
“That’s not saying I don’t work at first base anymore. I take my ground balls every day but, after you get done with your work, you have to realize what you’re doing that day and what your role is and you have to focus on that.”
Butler, 26, won the award after batting .313 and setting career highs with 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. He batted .315 in 138 games as a DH with 23 homers and 93 RBIs.
“I felt comfortable all year from day one,” he said. “I was locked in and put a lot of hard work in last offseason…It’s hard to say I’m going to go out there and put up better numbers than I did this year but, hey, I’m sure going to try.”
Butler won the Silver Slugger one day after being selected as the Royals’ player of the year for the third time in four seasons by the Kansas City Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The Royals had not had a Silver Slugger recipient since third baseman Dean Palmer in 1998. George Brett won the award twice as a third baseman (1980 and 1985) and once as a first baseman (1988). Outfielder Willie Wilson won in 1980 and 1982.
Four other players won the award once prior to Butler: DH Hal McRae in 1982, second baseman Frank White in 1986, third baseman Gary Gaetti in 1995 and Palmer in 1998.
Other American League selections: catcher A.J. Pierzynski (Chicago); first baseman Prince Fielder (Detroit); second baseman Robinson Cano (New York); shortstop Derek Jeter (New York); third baseman Miguel Cabrera (Detroit); and outfielders Mike Trout (Los Angeles), Josh Hamilton (Texas) and Josh Willingham (Minnesota).
The National League selections: catcher Buster Posey (San Francisco), first baseman Adam LaRoche (Washington), second baseman Aaron Hill (Arizona), shortstop Ian Desmond (Washington), outfielders Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee) and Jay Bruce (Cincinnati); and pitcher Stephen Strasburg (Washington).