04/15/08 7:39 PM EST
Butler getting job done at plate, in field
First baseman's defense going a bit unnoticed by bat prowess
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Butler was in the field on Sunday against Minnesota and on Monday night against Seattle without a mishap.
Getting Butler in tune defensively at first base was a major project during Spring Training. He's obviously a fine hitter, but at his age -- he turns 22 on Friday -- the ideal would be for him to play a position rather than be strictly a designated hitter.
In the end, manager Trey Hillman decided that Ross Gload was his primary first baseman and that Butler would mostly DH. But he finally used Butler at first base when the opponents started left-handed pitchers.
Twice in the third inning on Monday night, Butler got a chance to field ground balls and throw to second base in double-play situations. There was no chance for two on Yuniesky Betancourt's ball but the Royals just missed on Ichiro Suzuki's grounder.
"I thought he did real good," Hillman said. "I'm not sure anybody turns the 3-6-1 or the 3-6-3 on that Ichiro ball. It was kind of an in-between -- not a tough hop -- but he could have panicked on it, and he didn't.
"A couple of 3-6 plays. He's moving around the bag just fine. We're getting what I was hopeful for, that we'd get out of it. It is what I said coming out of Spring Training. I'm not afraid to play him there, but I think Ross Gload will end up getting the majority of the [games] there."
Butler, though, enjoys being out there -- especially in the back-to-back complete-game victories by Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke.
"I feel comfortable," Butler said. "I feel good. You feel so good playing behind our pitching staff right now and you do everything you can for them because they're battling out there and they're doing great.
"I've always thought playing in a position keeps you in the game more."
As a DH, of course, he was doing just fine. He entered Tuesday night's game against the Mariners with at least one hit in each of the first 13 games. He had a .375 average, third-best in the American League.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.