Sunday, March 25, 2007

Billy Butler Probable to Return to Royals Soon

Billy Butler was welcomed to minor league camp by coach Terry Bradshaw over the weekend after Butler was cut by the Royals, with Bradshaw readying to turn the 20-year-old prospect into a defensively acceptable outfielder.

"He looks like he will become a real good hitter in the future," Bradshaw told "We're looking forward to working with him."

Bradshaw -- a former outfielder with the Cardinals -- said Butler's bat is good enough that he has "a good chance" to return to the major league club soon if opportunity presents itself, perhaps in the instance of injury.

Notably, starting designated hitter Mike Sweeney, 33, has missed more than 260 games over the past three years due to a variety of health woes, and would leave a gap on the roster should he go down again. However, manager Buddy Bell is concerned that Butler's development will be impeded if he used excessively as an emergency designated hitter.

Butler will roam left field for the AAA Omaha Royals when the team opens its 2007 Pacific Coast League season April 5 at Albuquerque, N.M.; and in the home opener at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha-Council Bluffs on April 13, again versus Albuquerque. He is projected to bat in the No. 3 or No. 4 hole.

Joining him will be former American League Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, 28, who was demoted to rediscover himself after successive years of declining production. Berroa has been replaced at shortstop by light-hitting shortstop Tony Pena Jr., son of the former Royals manager, who was acquired from the Braves.

Butler, who has told coaches he is determined to develop his defensive game, must concentrate on reading flies off the bat and finding efficient routes to the ball. Butler's arm is not a problem, but to compensate for his being somewhat heavy-footed he will need to make snap judgements to get to balls quickly, according to the staff.

The Royals top pick in the 2004 draft, Butler owns a .344 minor league average. Butler hit .419 with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs in 31 at-bats while assigned as a non-roster invitee at the major league camp this spring in Surprise, Ariz.