Billy Butler and the Royals have agreed to a four-year, $30-million contract extension, the first baseman said Saturday.
The multi-year contract avoids salary arbitration and gives Butler the security of a long-term deal through 2014.
“I just get to worry about playing baseball and it’s what’s best for me and my family,” Butler said. “That’s what it’s all about. I didn’t want to have to worry about going to arbitration every year and this where I want to be. The city’s great and we love it here. I can’t express how happy we are right now.”
Butler had filed in arbitration for $4.3 million and the Royals offered $3.4 million. Now that’s off the table.
His new deal was worked out by agent Greg Genske of Legacy Sports with Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
“It worked out for both sides,” Butler said. “I’ve always been happy to be a Royal. We have a lot of young guys coming up and we plan on doing great things. It just means I’m a big part of it.”
Butler, his wife Katie and their daughter Kenley live in Idaho Falls where Butler made his pro debut in 2004 with a rousing .373 average. He was in Kansas City for the Royals FanFest.
“It’s just what’s best for your family,” Butler said. “We’re happy to be done with it and Dayton and the whole organization were great.”
Butler on Saturday was to receive the Royals Player of the Year Award for the second straight time after setting new career highs in several categories, including average (.318), hits (189), walks (69) and on-base percentage (.388).
Billy Butler’s off-the-field contributions continue to get recognition. He was cited as the October Player of the Month by Sporting Generosity, an organization in Washington, D.C., that recognizes contributions to the community by athletes.
Butler’s biggest hit has been his “Hit-It-A-Ton” program which helps feed Kansas City’s homeless and low-income families through the Bishop Sullivan Center’s St. James Place. He donates a ton of food for every home run he hits and various businesses follow his lead. Since 2008, the program has accounted for nearly 1,000 tons of food.
He and his wife Katie have become leaders in the Royals’ charitable endeavors.
— Dick Kaegel
The Royals cut ties with Jose Guillen on Thursday, with the veteran outfielder designated for assignment.
Guillen, who leads the Royals with the 16 home runs and 62 RBIs, did not figure in the club’s future plans. He was in the last year of a three-year, $36-million contract.
The move clears the way for Kila Ka’aihue, a top power prospect, to get more playing time. Ka’aihue is expected to share first base and designated hitter with Billy Butler.
To fill Guillen’s spot on the 25-man roster, the Royals called up pitcher Philip Humber from Triple-A Omaha. A starter, he was 5-6 with a 4.47 ERA in 21 games.
Guillen leaves the Royals in the wake of a terrible slump. He was just 1-for-28 in his last seven games, going hitless in 21 at-bats since collecting his 300th career double.
Will center fielder Rick Ankiel, on the disabled list with a right quad strain, be ready when he’s eligible for reinstatement on May 18?
“I’m not sure if he’s ready to come off at the appropriate date but we’ll see,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on Monday.
The quad was thought to be a minor thing back when Ankiel came out of a game on April 24. He was used as a pinch-hitter twice during the Tampa Bay series, May 1-2.
“If we thought it was going to be longer, he wouldn’t have pinch-hit,” Moore said. “We expected him to play two of the four in Tampa Bay and Trey (Hillman) decided to wait and give him a couple days without playing so he could play all three games in Chicago. And that Sunday he realized that he couldn’t go and we had to make a move.”
That’s when Ankiel went on the DL and Kila Ka’aihue was called up. This is reminiscent of the ankle injury that Ankiel suffered in Spring Training. Initially he was going to be out just a day or two but it turned into an 18-day absence.
Luke Hochevar might have been throwing up in the bullpen during his warm-ups on Sunday at Texas but he still insisted on pitching. “I haven’t been feeling well for the past couple of days or so, but it wasn’t this bad. But I can still throw strikes. I don’t care how bad it is. Regardless, I’ve got to keep us in that ballgame better than I did,” he said. He was pulled in the third inning after giving up four runs on four walks and three hits. . . . Nobody was watching on Sunday when the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton didn’t come close to tagging up at first base after a catch. He advanced to second while a run scored on a sac fly and the Royals failed to appeal. “You would hope your first baseman would catch that . . . and a lot of times somebody picks it up in the dugout,” Hillman said. “We were pretty well-located to see that play. I didn’t see it at the time that it happened.” Turns out Billy Butler was watching the play at the plate along with everyone else. . . . Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna pitched six innings in Northwest Arkansas’ 8-1 win over Tulsa on Sunday, boosting his record to 4-1 and lowering his ERA to 1.09.
Who does Zack Greinke have to fear most on the Rays when he starts on Sunday? No, not Evan Longoria, who is 0-for-10 against Zack. Not Carlos Pena, 3-for-21 (.143) or Carl Crawford, 4-for-19 (.211). It’s that pesky Jason Barlett, the Rays’ leadoff batter who is 5-for-10 with three walks against the Royals’ ace.
Lefty prospect Mike Montgomery made his first start since being promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and it lasted only 1 2/3 innings. No, he didn’t get knocked out, he got rained out. Before the rain, he gave up one hit, a walk and no runs with two strikeouts against Arkansas at Little Rock. He was 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts for Single-A Wilmington with 33 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. . . . Jordan Parraz’s two-run homer lifted Triple-A Omaha over Iowa, 3-1, and Blake Wood recorded his fourth save. . . . Jairo Cuevas pitched eight strong innings for his second win as Wilmington beat Winston-Salem, 3-1. First baseman Eric Hosmer’s two hits raised his average to .421. . . . Billy Butler marked his three-year anniversary of his first Major League game on Saturday night. It was May 1, 2007, when Billy debuted against the Angels and went 2-for-4. He singled in his first at-bat against Bartolo Colon. Manager Buddy Bell had him batting seventh and playing left field.
How ya gonna keep Kila Ka’aihue down on the farm?
Ka’aihue’s towering home run snapped a 12-12 tie in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 14-12 victory over Oakland. That gave the big first baseman from Hawaii a club-leading four home runs with 11 RBIs and his 3-for-4 boosted his average to .381 with 16 hits.
“He’s having a heck of a spring and he’s making a tremendous case for himself,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
But Ka’aihue is a first baseman-designated hitter and that’s a crowded department on the club with Billy Butler and Jose Guillen around.
“We’ve still got plenty of games left. I’m going to keep playing him,” Hillman said. “I’ve never said he’s not going to make the club and I’ve never said he’s on the club. And I’ve always said everything about him we like. So we’ll see how things go. It is a crowded spot but we need to have some run producers.”
Ka’aihue, a left-handed slugger, has seemed destined for a return to Triple-A Omaha all spring but, as the skipper likes to say, stay tuned.
Meantime on Saturday, Hillman’s pitchers (and those of the A’s) were unimpressive with Josh Rupe especially banged around. Rupe was making a strong case for a bullpen spot but, in starting against the A’s, he coughed up six runs in the first two innings.
Brad Thompson and Bryan Bullington each gave up three runs in three innings. But Thompson did pitch out of some jams and Bullington followed one bad inning with two good ones.
“I was real pleased that Thompson battled through some adversity and figured out a way to stop the bleeding,” Hillman said.
Hillman was also happy with the way Bullington finished up and how the ball was getting out of his hand.
The skipper had to get after Roman Colon, who was brought in to pitch the ninth with a two-run lead and immediately walked the leadoff batter. After ball one to the next batter, Hillman jumped up and went to the mound for an intense one-on-one.
“I thought he was too concerned about a runner on first base there in that situation and I just wanted to eliminate that,” Hillman said.
Colon got a strikeout, gave up a single, then retired the next two batters to end the slugfest.
Billy Butler continued his hot hitting in Friday’s 8-4 win over the Dodgers. He went 3-for-3 which gave him 13 hits in his last 22 at-bats and raised his Cactus League average to .429 (21-for-49).
The Royals put the Dodgers at a disadvantage by using the American League DH while Dem Bums played it National League straight by letting the pitcher bat. But it was OK’d by LA manager Joe Torre, an agreeable sort.
“We had to get it cleared. Thankfully we were playing a team that didn’t mind. They’ve got to agree to it,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
And, with Butler’s three singles and Kila Ka’aihue’s home run and single, the Royals’ DH slot was 5-for-5 with three runs scored and three driven in. Thank you, Joe.
By the way, Ka’aihue leads the club with three homers and is hitting .342 but still is regarded as having little chance to make the club. But who knows?
Hillman was pleased by the two left-handers who succeeded Zack Greinke to the mound. Dusty Hughes gave up a run-scoring single immediately after replacing Greinke in the sixth but then worked two scoreless innings.
“Up to today it’s been a little bit of a very inconsistent and rough spring for him from what we wanted to see,” Hillman said.
John Parrish, who missed last season after shoulder surgery, worked a perfect ninth with one strikeout.
“Very good, very in command, best I’ve seen pitch-to-pitch from him,” Hillman said.
David DeJesus put it succinctly when he talked about Rick Ankiel’s performance in Tuesday’s intrasquad game: “Everything he hits is a home run.”
That was true. He belted two solo homers – one off Luke Hochevar, one off Minor Leaguer Danny Duffy – as his team rolled, 6-0. He teed off on Hochevar’s changeup and Duffy’s breaking ball. In his other at-bat, Ankiel didn’t hit the ball – lefty Adam Bostick struck him out. Alberto Callaspo, batting right-handed, also homered off Duffy.
DeJesus had three at-bats and belted a triple, a double and a single.
“I just wanted to stay relaxed at the plate,” DeJesus said. “It’s way different doing (batting practice) with the pitchers behind the screen. When you get out there with no screens, you feel like you lock in a little better and it’s definitely always good when you get your first day with three hits.”
He could have had two triples but stopped at second base because he knew the inning was going to be halted at that point anyway. (Three innings were waved off because the pitchers had reached their pitch limit.)
Ankiel thought he got a little help on his second home run by the light Arizona air. “Definitely an Arizona home run,” he said.
Manager Trey Hillman liked what he saw from his offense – there were 13 hits in the five innings – despite skipping live batting practice early on in camp.
“I don’t think we were too far behind considering we didn’t take batting practice the first two days,” Hillman said. “If we hadn’t done well offensively today, by at least one side, I’m sure these guys would’ve grumbled that we missed those two days. But it looked like the mistakes from the pitchers got hit. They got some balls out over the plate.”
But he saw some good things from his pitchers as well.
“Hoch left a changeup up but other than that, he pitched very well, was very efficient. I thought (Aaron) Crow did a real good job. Even though he fell behind, he did a real good job of getting back in the count,” Hillman said.
And he was impressed by Rule 5 draft choice Edgar Osuna, a left-hander.
“You can see the pitchability,” Hillman said. “This is the second time in a row I’ve seen a good breaking ball – it’s got depth and sweep to it. He’s deceptive, especially with the changeup. He’s not afraid to throw to both sides of the plate. He threw Billy Butler a nice cutter inside and followed it up with a changeup and it resulted in two foul balls. But the only reason is because it was Billy Butler. He could’ve struck a lot of right-handed hitters out with that pitch coming in glove-side instead of using the changeup away.”
Most of all, though, Hillman liked his defense. The only error was a wide throw by Hochevar.
“Very clean. We had one error. I was very pleased with the defensive play,” Hillman said.
For Wednesday’s second intrasquad game, Hillman is switching the lineups around. Ankiel will be back but as a designated hitter; ditto for Jose Guillen. Mike Moustakas will get a shot at third base and several other non-roster players are in the two lineups as well. The pitchers will include Brian Bannister and Dusty Hughes.
Before Tuesday’s intrasquad game, Mike Aviles threw from shortstop for the first time in camp. He’s recuperating from Tommy John surgery in his right elbow so he was cautious but made about 15 of the long throws without a problem. He played second base in the game.
Outfielder Scott Podsednik was nicked in the hand by a pitch that glanced off the knob of his bat but he was OK.
Affable Billy Butler was testing his skills as an interviewer in the Royals’ camp on Monday, hoping to take over the “Mark Teahen Show” which had been shown on the Kauffman Stadium video board and on the Royals Insider TV show.
With cameraman Stephen Spiegel trailing him, Butler accosted teammate David DeJesus who was just finishing up an interview with several reporters. Butler jumped in with a burning question: “What’s your favorite color?” DeJesus was quick with his answer: “Royal blue.”
Butler merrily asked questions of other players and this reporter who just as merrily gave him a “no comment.”
The Teahen production was a whimsical, mostly nonsensical series of give-and-take with teammates. But now that he’s gone to the White Sox, the job of host was open.
Or was it? With the Royals Insider TV show canceled this year, Butler may be auditioning for a gig that no longer exists. That would be too bad. Billy seemed to be having a ball.
Catcher Jason Kendall joining the Royals after his father, Fred, had been a coach in KC prompted the topic of other father-son combinations with the club. There were three combos as players: Hal and Brian McRae, John and Dusty Wathan and Floyd and Brian Bannister. There was the manager-player combo of Tony Pena and Tony Pena Jr. and, of course, Hal McRae and John Wathan also were Royals managers. Royals staffers Colby Curry and Curt Nelson dug into the matter. Nelson, director of the Royals Hall of Fame, noted there were other Royals players who had big-league fathers including Bob Boone (Ray), Chris Haney (Larry), Kurt Stillwell (Ron), Mel Stottlemyre Jr. (Mel) and Danny Tartabull (Jose) although the dads didn’t play with the Royals. The only brother combination to play for the Royals apparently was George and Ken Brett. . . . Umpires supervisor Steve Palmero dropped by the Royals’ camp to meet with manager Trey Hillman, coaches and staff about proposed rules changes and interpretations. As usual, Palmero is interested in ways to speed up the game, one of his pet projects. . . . Former Royals infielder Tony Graffanino visited ex-teammates in the clubhouse. He’s retired now after 13 Major League seasons with seven teams, bowing out last year in a brief stint with Cleveland.
The Royals have been big supporters of the military and that continues with the launch of the 2010 Royals Caravan next Tuesday at Fort Riley in Kansas.
Hall of Famer George Brett will be joined by his old pal and former catcher Jamie Quirk and the noted “Joker” and ex-third baseman Joe Randa in meeting members of the Combat Aviation Brigade. The unit of more than 2,700 soldiers is preparing to deploy overseas in the nation’s war zone.
They’ll be joined by broadcaster Joel Goldberg for the visit from 11:15 to 12:45 p.m. CT on Tuesday. The group also will visit the Cottonwood Elementary School in Salina, Kan., at 2:15 p.m. and go to that night’s basketball game at Manhattan, Kansas State vs. Texas A&M.
Should be an interesting FanFest with the ’85 World Series boys coming in. Even Buddy Black, busy as the Padres manager, is taking time to join ex-pitching buddies such as Charlie Leibrandt, Bret Saberhagen and Danny Jackson. And Hal McRae will be there with his big smile and famous cackle. . . . We hear the Royals are planning to have an alumni game next summer with the ’85ers squaring off against some of the Cardinals’ alums from the I-70 Series. Wouldn’t it be nice if new Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog could join the fun? . . . Mike Sweeney will be at next Thursday night’s Royals Awards dinner to present the award named for him – which goes to the player who best represents the organization on and off the field. This year’s winner is first baseman Clint Robinson from the Wilmington Blue Rocks. He logged many hours at the community’s schools and camps and the local Children’s Hospital. He also hit .298 with 13 dingers. Sweeney last year was surprised with the Mr. Baseball Award for his long service to Kansas City. . . . Tickets for the dinner, by the way, are on sale at www.royals.com/awardsnight. It’s 75 bucks and gets you a look at Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, Brett, Frank White and many other celebs. It’s at the Overland Park Convention Center.
— Dick Kaegel