Butler is likely headed back to cleanup spot
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Royals manager Ned Yost dropped Billy Butler out of the cleanup spot early last week, Butler did not view the decision as a demotion.
"Even if I didn’t agree with it — and I did agree with it — there are times the manager has to do what is best for me and the ball club," Butler said. "That was the case there."
Yost moved Sal Perez into the cleanup spot for the last four games while Butler moved to No. 6. Almost instantly, Butler seemed to relax in his new spot in the order.
And the line drives off Butler’s bat suddenly returned. He has six hits in his last 14 at-bats.
"I thank (Yost) for that because the minute he dropped me down in the order, I started making progress," Butler said. "I’m not good at evaluating what necessarily is best overall — I’m good at evaluating what’s coming out of the pitcher’s hand, whether it’s a fastball or slider. The manager is better at figuring out what’s best for the team."
And now Yost said he likely will return Butler to the cleanup spot.
"Billy is almost back to being Billy," Yost said. "He’s freed up. He’s seeing the ball much better and he looks more comfortable."
Of course, Yost has a new problem — Perez went just 1 for 16 hitting cleanup and is mired in his own slump now. That’s an issue for another day.
For now, Yost is content that Butler looks much more like the Butler of old — Butler hit two balls hard again Sunday, one of which almost made it over the 410-foot sign in center field.
Butler, too, believes his early-season slump is now behind him. He finally raised his average over the Mendoza line to .213.
"I drove the ball to the track (Sunday), but hey, it’s a big park," Butler said. "The last four or five games it’s been going well."
Still, Butler, like everyone else, is amazed he could go through a prolonged slump. He can’t remember ever going through a 0-for-19 slide like he recently did.
"It’s the longest time in my career that I didn’t have my timing," he said. "It gets magnified when it’s early in the season. In actuality, it’s a small sample size.
"But still, I can’t figure out why it took so long to get out of (the slump). I didn’t prepare any differently. Every player goes through it, I guess. It was just a little longer than you are accustomed to seeing me go through it."
The news that he will return to the No. 4 hole was pleasing to Butler, as you might expect. He takes great pride in his role as a middle-of-the-order producer.
"I went into the season as the No. 4 hitter," he said. "That’s what they want me to be.
"I feel I have earned it to be the No. 4 hitter with consistency over the years. But it just shows you that it can work the other way around, too. If you have some struggles … it’s not like (the cleanup spot) just gets handed to you. You have to consistently prove yourself."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.