Surprise, Ariz. Manager Trey Hillman says Mike Jacobs and Billy Butler will be in his Kansas City lineup for most games, but he isn’t sure which one will be the primary first baseman and which will be designated hitter.
Butler started 33 games last season at first base, where his defensive skills are considered by some to be sub-par. He also started 82 games at designated hitter for the Royals.
Jacobs has a reputation of being a below-average defender, as well. But both he and Butler have had solid performances at first base in spring training.
“I like both of them equally well at first base,” Hillman said Thursday. “I met with those guys this morning to just give them a better idea on the lay of the land. I said, ‘Both of you guys are going to suck up a lot of at-bats, some of them are going to be at DH and some are going to be at first base, and I can’t give you numbers on those.’ They were fine with it. Those guys kind of bonded, which is a nice thing to see.”
Jacobs hit 32 home runs and drove in 93 runs last year with the Florida Marlins, while Butler, who turns 23 on April 18, has won two minor-league batting titles and sports a .282 average in 216 games in the majors.
Jacobs bats left-handed and has had problems with left-handed pitchers. Only seven of his home runs last season were against lefties, against whom he hit only .218 in 2008 and has a .235 career average. That compares with a .269 average against right-handed pitchers.
Hillman said he has no reservations about putting Jacobs in the lineup against left-handers.
“I’m saying that with Mike having four strikeouts against Oakland two days ago,” Hillman said. “Mike Jacobs, I believe, will be more consistent than what the projected numbers were in evaluating his skills from his previous history. I’m not afraid for Jake to be in there against left-handers.”
The Royals will face Chicago White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle on Monday in the season opener.