Royals designated hitter Billy Butler was all revved up for his first World Series, banging out a base hit in his first at-bat in game one and batting fifth in game two.
But when the World Series shifts to San Francisco on Friday, he’ll be consigned to the bench and confined to a role as a pinch hitter because the three games at AT&T Park will be played by National League rules and without a DH.
Butler, who has had to deal with the situation at National League parks in interleague play throughout is career, said he’ll be ready for the role.
“It’s not a disappointment at all,” Butler said. “It’s just the different rules. I’ll be prepared for whatever the team needs, and hopefully I’ll come up in a big situation and contribute in a big way. A lot of times in the National League you empty out your bench, obviously, more than you do in the American League …
“So the bench plays a vital part, and whoever has the better and deeper bench, I think is going to make a difference in that one.”
The Royals faced this situation in the 1985 World Series, when club Hall of Famer Hal McRae, one of the original prototype DHs, appeared just once in the three games in St. Louis, going hitless in his one at-bat.
Royals manager Ned Yost said he doesn’t view the loss of Butler’s bat and prospect of his pitchers having to hit as a disadvantage.
“We’ve got a big bat on the bench late that we can bring off ” Yost said. “Our pitchers, even though they haven’t done it with regularity, are all pretty decent hitters. They’re all pretty fundamentally sound in terms of bunting.
“To have a bat like Billy Butler’s on the bench coming in in a situation, it could be the fourth inning, it could be the fifth inning or the sixth inning with guys in scoring position. That could be the difference.
It’s a different style of game, but I don’t see where it’s a huge disadvantage to us.”
Butler has been a productive pinch hitter in interleague games as well as during the spell he was not starting last August. In his career, he has batted .306 as a pinch hitter (11 for 36) with three doubles and two home runs. This year, he was four for six, including a mammoth eighth-inning, two-run homer that beat Cleveland on July 25.
“My job every day is basically like four pinch hits,” Butler said of being a DH. “Granted, if you have one pinch hit that day, you have to wait a little bit longer for your next one. But usually it’s in a big situation. Usually it’s in a situation where it can decide the outcome of the game. And if it doesn’t work out, which pinch-hitting odds aren’t in your favor, you’ve just got to go up there and try to put a good at-bat together. That being said, it doesn’t always have a good outcome. You just have to have a short memory and look for your next opportunity.”
San Francisco deployed veteran outfielder Michael Morse as its designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series. Morse was two for four as a pinch-hitter in the NLCS, including a game-tying home run in the decisive win over St. Louis.
Getting four-to-five at-bats as a DH beats one pinch-hit appearance a game.
“Yeah, it’s pretty fun,” Morse said. “It’s totally different than going in and playing in the field. For me, I’ve got to keep on my feet and keep in the game. You can easily focus too much on your at-bats. Playing in the field, playing defense, you can kind of wash your at-bats away and play defense.
“I love the fact both leagues are split up that way. It’s great for baseball. There are different ways to manage. Sometimes you have pitchers who can hit. I know (Madison) Bumgarner wished he could hit (Tuesday). But at the same time, it gives a guy like me an opportunity to play and get some more at-bats.
“You know, it’s baseball. You’ve got the AL and NL, and I like how it’s split up.”