Royals plan for Butler to steal more in 2011

Royals plan for Butler to steal more in 2011

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals are unveiling a new weapon in Spring Training: Billy Butler, base-stealer.

Butler, who has only one stolen base in his big league career, swiped second base in the first inning of the Royals' 4-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday. He was on base after drilling a two-run single.

"Billy got one in the intrasquad game the other day, too," manager Ned Yost said. "You can pick your spots in those situations, and we're looking to do that whenever we can."

Yost wants to upgrade the Royals' baserunning this year, taking an extra base on hits and getting more steals -- even from an unlikely source like Butler.

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"He's pretty much turned us loose, and if I don't abuse it, we can expand on it," Butler said.

Yost figures that Butler could get up to 10 steals a season by picking his spots.

"I have one in my career, and Ned's going to be a little more aggressive than managers we've had in the past," Butler said.

Yost frequently points out that even a big guy like Prince Fielder stole bases for him at Milwaukee, including seven in 2006.

"Teams really don't pay attention to me over there and, if I get a good jump like I did today, I can sneak a few in the right situations," Butler said.

That could be a good thing for the Royals on the field, but not such a good thing for Mike Aviles' ears in the clubhouse.

"He's really been getting on me and Mitch [Maier] that he leads us in stolen bases because he got one in intrasquad," Aviles said with a smile. "Now, he really leads us in stolen bases -- you might want to write that down: 'Butler leads team in stolen bases.'"

Aviles vows he'll do something to head off seeing that headline too often.

"I'm going to try to steal a base myself, so at least we're tied," he said.

Butler, though, says he's going to have some stolen-base attempts this year.

"He'll surprise some people," Yost said.

That's the idea.