The wait ended for Royals designated hitter Billy Butler in the final inning of a 9-1 victory over the White Sox. He connected on his second home run of the season on a thigh-high fastball from Chicago reliever Daniel Webb.
“I knew one was coming soon,” Butler said. “Because I was driving balls. I was hitting balls well. It’s good to get one out of the park. They come in bunches. Hopefully that’s a sign of more to come.”
Butler is still trying to turn his season around after a miserable beginning. He has seven hits in his last four games, including two more on Saturday. He also worked a walk to start a five-run rally against White Sox starter Hector Noesi.
To manager Ned Yost, the most encouraging aspect of Butler’s blast was he drove the ball to the opposite field. “That was big,” Yost said.
Escobar stays in lineup
A case of cramping did not keep shortstop Alcides Escobar out of the lineup on Saturday. He missed the final two innings of defense on Friday, but he reported no discomfort the next morning. He collected two hits, including a double.
Valencia to rehab at Northwest Arkansas
Third baseman Danny Valencia (sprained left hand) will travel to Class AA Northwest Arkansas to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Sunday morning. Valencia does not expect to need more than a few games to get back into working order.
When Valencia returns, he probably will take the roster spot of a reliever. The team has been carrying eight relievers. Either Donnie Joseph or Michael Mariot could be at risk.
Chen headed to Chicago
After a rough outing with Class AAA Omaha, when he gave up six runs in three innings, Bruce Chen was slated to meet the team here on Sunday. He is not expected to be activated. Yost indicated team officials wanted to monitor his work in between appearances.
Chen, the 36-year-old left-hander, has missed nearly two months due to a bulging disk in his lower back. He posted a 7.45 ERA in his four starts before his injury. His performance during his rehab games has been far from encouraging: In three starts, he’s given up 12 runs on 26 hits in only 10 innings.
Yost continues to downplay the significance of Chen’s final lines. He noted Chen’s fastball velocity clocked from 83 to 88 mph on Friday, and Chen reported no discomfort in his back afterward.
“It’s hard to explain,” Yost said. “When you’re a big-league pitcher, it’s tough to go down [to the minors]. It’s not the same adrenaline. It’s not the same competition. So it is what it is.”
Pitching coach to return
Pitching coach Dave Eiland was expected to rejoin the team for Sunday’s series finale. He missed the last two games to attend a funeral.