Butler 'fits' power game in offensive arsenal
Royals designated hitter's offseason work adds to homer barrage
CHICAGO -- Billy Butler thought aloud on Tuesday night when asked how, after only 108 games, the Royals designated hitter already had set a new career high with 22 home runs in Kansas City's win over the White Sox.
He answered "I don't know" and "more backspin," before settling on "I'm definitely stronger."
Manager Ned Yost didn't need to think when asked for his thoughts behind Butler's spike in power.
"He's getting stronger, he's pulling the ball a little bit more," Yost said before Wednesday's series finale with the White Sox. "I've said all along, I think he's capable of being a 30 home runs a year guy."
Yost credited Butler's increased offseason conditioning for him reaching the 20-homer plateau for the second time in his six-year career, the other coming in 2009 (21). Butler hit only 19 and 15 homers the last two years, respectively, but moved this winter to Arizona near the Royals' Spring Training complex in Surprise.
"[He] showed up to Spring Training in the best shape I've ever seen him in and he's maintained it," Yost said.
Butler's increased power hasn't negatively affected the rest of his game. He entered Wednesday batting .301 (.298 career hitter), reaching base at a .370 clip (nine points above his career on-base percentage of .361) and has struck out 70 times (his 162-game average is 93). He also earned his first All-Star nod this season.
That adds to another reason that Butler suspected, and Yost agreed with, about his added power: he's coming into his own.
"He's such a special offensive guy that that's what I expect out of him," Yost said. "I think he's a .300 hitter and a guy that can hit anywhere from 25 to 30 home runs a year, and drive in 100 every year, consistently.
"As an offensive player he can just about do it all. He can drive the ball to all fields. He hits all types of pitching -- there's not a lot of hitters that can hit good pitching like he can."
Frenchy shows signs of bunts to come
CHICAGO -- Jeff Francoeur did something Tuesday night that he had only done three times previously in his career: bunt for a base hit.
The result was the Royals outfielder igniting a two-run seventh inning that gave Kansas City the lead en route to a 5-3 win over the White Sox.
Although the sight of players like Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson and Chris Getz bunting for a base hit isn't surprising, other Royals could be dropping down more base-hit bunt attempts in the future.
The past couple of weeks the Royals have changed the situational round of their batting practice routine by switching squeeze bunts for base-hit bunts. Manager Ned Yost said the Royals might only squeeze about three times a season, while bunting for hits is something that could help them more often.
"It's hard to ask somebody to do something if they don't practice it," Yost said.
Royals pitchers successful on many levels
CHICAGO -- Royals left-hander Bruce Chen wasn't the only pitcher in the organization to spin an impressive start on Tuesday night.
Chen, who earned his first win since late June in Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the White Sox, was part of a group of Royals pitchers who combined to go 7-2 with a 1.68 ERA (14 runs in 75 innings) on Tuesday while striking out 86 and walking only 22. All teams in the organization played on Tuesday except Double-A Northwest Arkansas, while Rookie-level Burlington had a seven-inning doubleheader.
Among the best performances were two recent Draft picks.
Right-hander Kyle Smith, the club's fourth-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, tossed seven shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out a career-high 12 for Class A Kane County. Smith, 19, now has 65 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings in nine professional starts.
Left-hander Sam Selman, Kansas City's second-round pick in the 2012 Draft, tossed five innings of one-hit ball and struck out 11 for Rookie-level Idaho Falls. Selman, selected out of Vanderbilt, is 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings spanning nine games (eight starts).
Utility infielder Tony Abreu received his third consecutive start on Wednesday after having his contract selected from Triple-A Omaha on Monday. He started at second base in place of Chris Getz after starting at third base on Monday and shortstop on Tuesday.
Manager Ned Yost's one-word answer for what he liked most about what Abreu brings to the club was, "versatility."
Abreu entered Wednesday 3-for-7 with two doubles in the first two games of the three-game series.
Reliever Blake Wood, who is on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this season, turned 27 on Wednesday.
Minor League right-hander Jose Geraldo has been suspended for 50 games without pay, effective immediately, after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol and Nandrolone. Geraldo is with the Rookie-level Royals of the Dominican League.