Butler's passion for Royals, to win shows

Butler's passion for Royals, to win shows

Butler's passion for Royals, to win shows
KANSAS CITY -- Of all the reasons to sign hard-hitting Billy Butler to a long-term contract, Royals general manager Dayton Moore found an essential one as he reflected upon the deal on Tuesday.

"When Billy steps into the box, it's an event, and it's something we all look forward to," Moore said.

Butler's four-year, $30 million deal, plus a club option for 2015 at $12.5 million, was revealed last Saturday.

"It's been a focus of our baseball operations department, certainly a focus of the Glass family, to keep our good, young, talented players here long term," Moore said. "And Billy, as you all have enjoyed watching him play over the last few years, has really separated himself as one of the premier young hitters in the game."

Moore said the Royals began talking about a long-term deal with Butler last year, so the recent retirement of Gil Meche which freed up $12 million from the payroll had nothing to do with it.

With top pitchers Meche and Zack Greinke along with outfielder David DeJesus now gone from the Royals' scene, Butler and premier closer Joakim Soria have become the primary faces of the franchise.

"I'm not trying to be that," Butler said. "I'm just trying to go out there and play the game the right way and lead by example and get this organization to be where we want to be."

Butler also shrugged off the notion that carrying a big contract would create a burden of extraordinary pressure for him. He pointed out that he was the No. 1 Draft choice of the club in 2004, so big expectations are nothing new.

"Every single at-bat, people expect me to do great things," he said. "Baseball's a game of failure, and it's how you handle that. Obviously, nobody's perfect and you're trying to handle that better each time. I've just had the good fortune of having the pressure from Day 1 and learning how to deal with it."

Nor did Moore feel that the long-term deal would reduce Butler's incentive as a player.

"He has a great deal of passion to play this game, and he wants to be a great hitter, not just a good hitter, so that's never really been an issue for us," Moore said. "He loves to play and that's what he does."

Butler has been fervent about his desire to continue playing in the field at first base and not become a full-time designated hitter. He was asked again if he'd be upset if someone bumped him into the DH role.

"No, I would not be, because that would mean somebody would be working even that much harder than I am," Butler said. "I know my limitations, and I'm working through those."

That possibility could arise in this Spring Training if first baseman Kila Ka'aihue makes the club.

It's also a future possibility, because hot prospect Eric Hosmer is expected to reach Kansas City in a year or two. Butler took a reference to Hosmer philosophically.

"Especially in the American League, you're going to need those days where you DH and it extends your career, and he's left-handed and I'm right-handed and we complement each other very well," Butler said. "And I'm just excited to get the opportunity to play with him."

When asked about becoming a team leader, Butler recalled the inspiration given to him by another Royals first baseman-DH.

"Obviously, I got to be around Mike Sweeney in 2007, when I came up, and everybody knows what type of person Mike is, and if I could be half of what Mike Sweeney was, I'll be happy with it," Butler said. "I'm just striving to be that type of guy for the organization."

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