Surprise, Ariz. Kansas City’s Billy Butler has been heeding the advice of his manager Ned Yost.
Butler hit a two-run home run with two outs in the first inning and the Royals defeated the Texas Rangers 6-1 in the exhibition opener for both clubs on Sunday.
Yost does not care if Butler sacrifices a few points off his batting average to drive in more runs.
“That’s a fair judgment,” Yost said. “I think it was more of a mindset adjustment more than anything else. He’s got the power and the ability to do it. He’s such a good hitter at times he would just focus early in the at-bat in putting the ball in play.”
After hitting .318 with 78 RBIs in 2010, Butler’s average dropped to .291 last year, but he drove in 95 runs.
“I want him to adopt to more of a haymaker approach early in the at-bat and then get two strikes and do what he does best, put the ball in play,” Yost said.
“I do think he’s a total hitter. I think he’s a run producer, a power hitter and an (high) average hitter. I think the last year the second half he did a really, really good job with that mindset.”
After the All-Star break last season, Butler hit 13 of his 19 home runs, while driving in 57 runs, which tied for the third-most RBIs in the majors. He also hit 24 doubles after the break, which ranked fourth in the majors.
Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis got ahead of Butler 0-2 when he drove the next pitch out to left-center with Johnny Giavotella aboard.
“I wasn’t looking for a home run,” Butler said. “Obviously, I got the barrel on it and got a good result. Usually, you’re chasing something or hitting their pitch on 0-2 and I just didn’t miss it.”
Butler noted the Royals beat the team that won the past two American League pennants.
“It’s definitely a good judge of where you’re at as a team,” Butler said. “I don’t care if it’s Day 1 or not. Those guys over there are as talented as they come. That’s the best team in the American League until somebody knocks them off.”
Luis Mendoza, who is vying for a rotation slot, and four Kansas City relievers limited the Rangers to four singles and a Mitch Moreland home run.
“I got 2-0, in a hitter’s count,” Moreland said. “The main thing I did was I saw some pitches and I was able to work the pitcher a little bit better than what I did toward the end of the year last year.”
Moreland hit .241 with five home runs after the All-Star break last year. He said “there weren’t many” swings the second half of last season like he had in the fifth.
Notes: With C Manny Pina out after having knee surgery in February, the Royals have added Cs Ryan Eigsti and Ben Theriot from minor-league camp for the first couple of weeks of exhibition games. ... Texas 1B-OF Brad Hawpe is out with right hamstring soreness. ... The announced attendance of 7,158 was a record for an exhibition opener at Surprise Stadium, which is beginning its 10th year.