05/27/12 7:10 PM ET
Butler sparking offense with power stroke
By Greg Luca / MLB.com
Butler has hit at least .291 for three consecutive seasons, and with a .301 average start to 2012, the Royals slugger has a chance to make it four.
Butler connected for his 11th homer in his first at-bat in Sunday's 4-2 win -- a solo shot into the left-field seats. His career high for home runs is 21, and Butler's 11 in the first 46 games puts him on pace to shatter that mark by 18.
Manager Ned Yost has been shuffling his lineup, trying some players in as many as six different spots. But Butler has made the skipper's job a little easier, slotting into the three- or four-hole every game this year and consistently producing.
"My experience has been, you don't have to worry about Billy much," Yost said. "His slides are very infrequent, and they're very short in their nature. He's just as consistent of a performer as I've ever seen."
Butler is the only Royal, aside from left fielder Alex Gordon, to start all 45 games this year -- batting third as the DH in Sunday's series finale against the Orioles.
Splitting time between first base and designated hitter, Butler has played at least 158 games each of the last three seasons.
While Butler couldn't point to a reason for his increased power, Yost said he thinks it's a payoff from Butler's strong offseason, during which he increased both his strength and agility.
"He worked real hard this year in his conditioning all winter long," Yost said. "[He] lived in Arizona for the first time and was at the complex just about every day working on his conditioning, and I've got to think that that has something to do with it."
Francoeur enjoying his current hot streak
BALTIMORE -- Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur has been on fire of late, going 15-for-29 to raise his batting average from a paltry .235 to a healthy .281.
Francoeur remained hot with a 2-for-4 day in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Orioles, extending his hitting streak to seven games.
Francoeur broke a 2-2 tie with a solo home run to left on a hanging slider in the sixth and also singled in the second, eventually scoring on a squeeze bunt by Mitch Maier.
Francoeur attributed the turnaround to an adjustment he made during batting practice on May 20. Instead of wrapping the bat around his body, Francoeur has been holding it at more of an angle, allowing him to get to pitches more quickly and make better contact. The faster swing gives Francoeur a chance to wait longer and see the ball deeper into the strike zone.
"I'm just going straight to the ball," Francoeur said. "You keep enjoying it and swinging as good as you can for as long as you can. It feels quick, feels efficient, and it feels good."
The right fielder has every right to feel good, slugging 1.069 in his last seven games.
After starting the season without a home run in the first 31 games, Francoeur hit four in his past six outings.
Francoeur's homer on Thursday came at the end of a 12-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off five fastballs before launching a sixth over the center-field fence.
"When you're doing something like that, obviously you're seeing it decently," Francoeur said. "It's gotten me on the fastball more. That's a big thing, because I think I was missing a lot of fastballs that were frustrating."
Manager Ned Yost said getting Francoeur back on track was a critical part of getting the Royals' offense rolling.
Kansas City entered Sunday ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored, and Yost has consistently shuffled his lineup to try to find a combination that works best.
"We've got to get him swinging the bat," Yost said. "If we can get him swinging the bat like he is now, and [Alex] Gordon and [Eric] Hosmer swinging like we know they can, we're going to be in great shape."
Center fielder Jarrod Dyson was not in the lineup for Sunday's game after suffering a right hamstring contusion in a collision with Alex Gordon on Saturday. Dyson and Yost both said the center fielder is feeling fine and was available to play if needed.
Left-hander Doug Davis made his first appearance in relief for Triple-A Omaha on Saturday and went 1 2/3 innings. He entered with men on first and second in the fifth inning and induced a double play before striking out two batters in a 1-2-3 sixth. Davis was reinstated from the temporary inactive list and was placed on the Omaha roster just prior to the game. He had previously been working in extended spring training since signing a Minor League contract on May 12.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain is scheduled to be the designated hitter in an extended spring game on Monday. Cain, who appeared in only five Major League games this season, is dealing with injuries to his left groin and, more recently, his left hip flexor.
Yost said lefty Jonathan Sanchez will be limited to 75 pitches in his start for Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday. Sanchez is on the 15-day disabled list with left bicep tendinitis.
Lefty Everett Teaford ran on Sunday for the first time since landing on the 15-day disabled list with a lower abdominal strain on May 19.
Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.