Butler focuses on training before bounceback bid

Numbers dipped for designated hitter in first season with Oakland

Butler focuses on training before bounceback bid

OAKLAND -- A's designated hitter Billy Butler has ramped up his offseason conditioning routine ahead of his age-30 season, readying to make good on a three-year, $30 million deal that, more times than not last year, looked like a flop.

Butler hit .251 with a .713 OPS in his first season in Oakland, drove in only 65 runs and left many more on base, grounding into 26 double plays in 151 games. He can't explain how these disappointing numbers came to be, but he's taken action to better them, in part through extra conditioning as outlined in a program drawn up by the A's training staff.

"I think I'm getting older and I've got to do more things to stay young," Butler said. "I'm not old, but I'm old in baseball terms, getting there. It's one of those things where I've got to do more to keep up with these young bucks."

Less concerned about his pants size -- Butler, listed at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, will always be hefty -- and more about improved fitness, the designated hitter has been engaged in two workouts per day since the start of the offseason. He works with a personal trainer on a daily basis ahead of batting-cage sessions at the team's Minor League complex in Arizona, where Butler lives year-round.

"I know he got to work right away," manager Bob Melvin said. "For a veteran guy like him that's had a lot of success, to have what was probably a down year for him, you probably have some added incentives, especially being with a new team last year, to come out this year and prove to everybody that he's the guy that we signed for a reason. He's still fairly young and probably in the prime of his career, so I know he's looking for a bounceback season."

Butler spent 11 years in Kansas City's organization before his move west, hitting .295/.359/.449 in eight big league seasons. He called his transition to the Bay Area a "culture shock," but he said this week at FanFest, "I know what to expect now. I'm completely prepared for everything that's ahead."

Butler also revealed he arrived to camp last year with a minor left wrist issue that carried over from the end of the 2014 season, preventing him from swinging a bat until full-squad workouts were underway. He still managed to hit .287 in April before dropping to a .224 average over the next four months. Butler finished the season strong, batting .300 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in his final 30 games.

Butler's walk-off double

The A's seek such production consistently from their designated hitter, who also happens to be one of their highest-paid players. Butler understands these expectations while recognizing the significance of the preparation necessary to fulfill them.

"I'm in good shape," Butler said, "I'm strong, everything's great. I'm gonna perform to the level they expect me to."

The peppering of questions on conditioning, Butler noted, "don't happen when you hit 30 home runs and 40 doubles. I don't think anybody questions your conditioning or offseason program [with those numbers]. So I would expect them. I've got a lot left in the tank.

"I've always had a bigger body type, even when I was 18. I wasn't going to be drafted to steal bases."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.