Royals’ Butler battling to stay patient

Updated: 2013-05-03T21:18:16Z


The Kansas City Star

Billy Butler is a designated hitter in the truest sense of the word. (All right, two words.) That’s his role and what he does. It is why he was an All-Star a year ago and a Silver Slugger recipient.

That’s what makes this season, to this point, so difficult. Too often, Butler isn’t getting the chance to perform his designated role -- even on those days when the elements permit the Royals to play.

“I’m not getting nearly the number of pitches to drive that I have in the past,” he said. “They’re few and far between. That’s why my walks are off the charts. I can’t make them throw it in the strike zone.”

Butler does lead the Royals with 18 walks; nobody else has more than 10. His .414 on-base percentage also tops the club. Both totals rank among the league leaders.

“It’s all about avoiding outs,” he said. “I’m not going to go out of the zone. That’s the mentality I have to have -- that I’m not going to go out of the zone. But it’s a consistent battle every day. I want to be aggressive.”

Every so often, he slips.

“Trust me,” he said, “I’m up there ready to swing. I’ve gotten a few pitches to hit where I’ve fouled it straight back. Or I pop it straight up to right center or left center.

“I did that off (Cleveland’s Corey) Kluber a few times the other day. I got into a 2-0 count, and then I got a pitch I should have taken, but I let my aggressiveness get the better of me in that count, and I made an out.”

The primary problem isn’t Butler, but the general inability of the Royals, so far, to protect him. The hitters behind Butler in the lineup are batting a combined .209.

“That’s the key,” manager Ned Yost agreed. “That’s why you try to have protection behind Billy. So that when they pitch around Billy, you still have somebody who can create damage.”

The other key, of course, is for Butler to remain vigilant.

“You can’t try to make things happen when the ball is out of the strike zone,” Yost said. “If they’re not going to throw you strikes, you’ve got to take your walks -- and then trust that the guy behind you will take care of it for you.”

Butler understands, but he’s batting just .278 -- even after a recent six-for-14 surge. (He was at .246 prior to that.) He carried a .300 career average into the season that trailed only George Brett on the club’s all-time chart.

A designated hitter wants to hit. Still…

“If they’re not going to throw it in the zone,” Butler said, “you’ve got to take your base. Or you go back to the dugout with an out. Which would you rather do?

“The game is all about avoiding outs, especially in my position. A walk is just as good as a single because you’re on first. I have to look at it that way, especially when I get deeper in the count.

“You’ve just got to try to get on first base somehow.”

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