Ned Yost insists he wasn’t slighting Billy Butler with ‘professional at-bat’ comment

The Royals' Billy Butler struck out swinging against the Indians on Aug. 30 at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' Billy Butler struck out swinging against the Indians on Aug. 30 at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

Ned Yost raised more than a few eyebrows when he explained his reasoning for using Raul Ibanez instead of Billy Butler as a pinch-hitter in the final at-bat of Saturday’s Royals loss. He said he sought a "professional at-bat," and so he chose Ibanez. He pondered the decision for hours after the game, wondering if he had made the correct decision.

The next morning, after Ibanez grounded out to end the game, Yost stressed his choice of words was a term of endearment for Ibanez, rather than a slight toward Butler. He also indicated Butler’s continued struggles at the plate, with two hits in September, caused Yost to throw out matchup numbers accrued over the years.

Yost understood Ibanez was 1-for-11 against closer Joe Nathan, and Butler was 6-for-14. But he felt Butler’s mechanics are misaligned, his timing is off and his confidence has dipped.

"There’s a lot of things going on that nobody really knows about," Yost said. "What I mean by a ‘professional at-bat,’ was a guy that’s been there, done it . . . Billy’s in a funk right now. And Billy has no idea what he’s doing wrong. You see what I’m saying? He’s working really hard at it.

"I put Billy in that game – I sat there and thought about it a million times. Raul, Billy. Billy, Raul. Billy, Raul. You look at Billy’s numbers – that doesn’t come into play right now. Because he’s 1-for-35, whatever. You look at what’s done against [Justin] Verlander. And then you look at the last two games against Verlander. The numbers don’t come into play."

Butler’s playing time has become a daily question for Yost and the Royals. He has lost at-bats at a steady clip in recent weeks. Yost insisted his decision on Sunday was not personal.

"It was absolutely no slight against Billy," Yost said. "I’ve got Billy in there today. People that think I’m slighting Billy, they’re off base."

Here are the lineups as Jeremy Guthrie (11-11, 4.35 ERA) faces Rick Porcello (15-11, 3.19 ERA):

TIGERS (86-68)

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B.

2. Torii Hunter, RF.

3. Miguel Cabrera, DH.

4. Victor Martinez, 1B.

5. J.D. Martinez, LF.

6. Nick Castellanos, 3B.

7. Bryan Holaday, C.

8. Andrew Romine, SS.

9. Rajai Davis, CF.

ROYALS (83-70)

1. Alcides Escobar, SS.

2. Nori Aoki, RF.

3. Lorenzo Cain, CF.

4. Eric Hosmer, 1B.

5. Billy Butler, DH.

6. Alex Gordon, LF.

7. Salvador Perez, C.

8. Omar Infante, 2B.

9. Mike Moustakas, 3B.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.