Billy Butler had batted seventh in a game just once since 2008, and only in 10 times in his first 1,101 games with the Royals. But that’s where he resided for Monday night’s series opener against the Rays.
Manaer Ned Yost painted himself as a manager without a choice. He desires balance in his batting order. Right-handed batters must follow left-handed batters.
So Yost placed Butler, a right-handed hitter, after left-handed-hitting Mike Moustakas in the No. 6 spot. Omar Infante batted fifth.
“I couldn’t figure out any other way to do it,” Yost said before Monday’s game. “They’ve got three lefties in the ’pen, and I’m trying to stay away from giving them cracks without being able to do anything about it.”
The move came as little surprise after the events of the weekend. Butler fell to sixth for Saturday’s game, and he rode the bench Sunday.
Butler explained Saturday night that he could not protest Yost’s decision. He had not hit well enough to chirp otherwise. During the first two months of the season, Butler posted a meager .620 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He has homered twice all season.
“Whenever you’re not producing at the level you’re supposed to,” Butler said, “you’ve really got no reason to complain.”
So Butler continued his descent in the order while first baseman Eric Hosmer stayed cemented into the No. 2 spot. Hosmer has slumped since mid-May. Butler, meanwhile, punched up an .811 OPS in June, which matched his career average heading into Monday.
A brief downswing in July cost him his cherished position higher in the order. On Monday, Yost hinted at his discontent with Butler’s play.
“We need some production,” he said. “We need some production out of the DH spot.”
Third not problem
After Mike Moustakas’ two-month swoon to start the season, the situation at third base looked dicey for the Royals. But since Moustakas returned from a demotion to Class AAA Omaha, he had hit .250 with a .776 OPS heading into Monday night’s game.
Combined with Danny Valencia’s .920 OPS against lefties, the platoon’s output pleases Yost.
“If you sit back and look at the production that we’ve had at third base,” Yost said, “it’s really not that bad.”
Aoki heads out
Outfielder Nori Aoki, who’s had a strained left groin muscle, was zero for three Monday night with Class AA Northwest Arkansas as he began a rehabilitation assignment.
The team expects Aoki to require at least a few games before he can rejoin the big-league club.