Minors report: Butler believes in ability

Minors report: Butler believes in ability

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There are numbers Billy Butler prefers the Royals remember when they are putting together their Opening Day roster and one he thinks they should ignore.

It figures that he wants them to consider a .520 batting average, .960 slugging percentage, .613 on-base percentage, a club-leading 10 RBIs after 17 games and only one strikeout in 25 at-bats in Spring Training.

Butler believes the Royals should not take into account the number 20, which happens to be his age.

"There have been plenty of guys who have been ready by 20," Butler said. "I think it should be based on performance, not on age. Age is just a number. If you act above your age and play above it, I don't think they should hold you down because of that."

Butler won the Pioneer League batting championship with a .373 average in 2004 after the Royals picked him in the first round (14th overall) of the First-Year Player Draft that year. He hit .331 last season to capture the Texas League batting title. He owns a .344 batting average with 55 home runs and 274 RBIs in 314 Minor League games.

"The kid can really hit," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.

Butler certainly has been anything but intimidated by Major League pitching.

"I always have a lot of confidence," Butler said. "It doesn't matter who is on the mound, if it is a big-league pitcher or not. I'm trying here to prove a point that maybe I am ready, and that maybe in the future show them what I can do and give them assurance to let them know that maybe I'm farther along than a lot of people thought I was."

The Royals want Butler to begin the season with Triple-A Omaha and work on his outfield defense. His bat looks as if it already is Major League ready.

On the move: Andres Blanco has played only 78 games in the Majors, but the slick-fielding 22-year-old form Venezuela is pushing Angel Berroa for the starting shortstop job.

Spring Training
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On the pine: Blake Wood, who was a third-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, has been set back early in Minor League camp by an offseason back injury. He will start the season on the disabled list.

Names in the game: Rule 5 Draft pick Joakim Soria has a 1.64 ERA in his first four appearances.

They're No. 1: Alex Gordon, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, hit .429 in his first dozen games.

Class of '06: Luke Hochevar, the first overall pick last June, was optioned to Double-A Wichita and was drilled in the left shin by a batted ball in his first appearance in Minor League camp. Hochevar was OK, walking around with it taped shortly afterwards, suffering only a bruise.

What they're saying: "From what I've seen of Butler, he can be an offensive threat in any league. He is working hard on his defense to become a complete player." -- Royals Hall of Famer and vice president George Brett

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.