Royals might need a rare pinch hit in Series

Associated Press

October 24, 2014

San Francisco Giants' Michael Morse laughs while standing behind the batting cage during the Giants' workout Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants are scheduled to face the Kansas City Royals in the third game of the baseball World Series on Friday.

SAN FRANCISCO Playing under American League rules with few reliable options on the bench this season, no manager had as little use for pinch hitters as Kansas City's Ned Yost.

Now with the World Series shifting to San Francisco for Game 3 on Friday night, when the pitcher will bat instead of the designated hitter in the NL park, Yost might need to make some extra moves.

Fortunately for the Royals, Billy Butler provides a potent bat to call upon even if the slugger will get just one chance in the batter's box instead of his usual four.

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy answers questions during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants and the Kansas City Royals are scheduled to play Game 3 of the baseball World Series in San Francisco on Friday.

"It's not a disappointment at all. It's just the different rules," Butler said. "I'll be prepared for whatever the team needs, and hopefully I'll come up in a big situation and contribute in a way. A lot of times in the National League you empty out your bench, obviously, more than you do in the American League."

Butler already has three hits in the Series. He had a pair of RBI singles as the Royals beat the Giants 7-2 in Game 2.

The righty-hitting Butler normally bats between lefties Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon, making it tougher for opponents to match up late in the game with their bullpen.

That will all change for the next three games, when Butler is set to begin the day on the bench.

Not that NL rules are foreign to Yost, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-08 before turning around the Royals franchise and leading them back to their first World Series since 1985.

San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey gets ready to hit in the batting cage during a workout Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants are to face the Kansas City Royals in Game 3 of baseball's World Series on Friday.

Still, Kansas City had a major league-low 51 pinch-hit opportunities this season that was 26 fewer than the next team, the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals went 9 for 43 in those chances with two home runs, six RBIs, six walks, one sacrifice bunt and a hit by pitch.

San Francisco's Michael Morse made the adjustment to pinch hitting in the playoffs, though it's hardly his first choice. The left fielder was limited because of a lingering oblique injury that forced him to miss all but one game in September.

Morse delivered a tying, pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of the NL Championship Series clincher against St. Louis last week.

"It was a lot of hard work. I was determined to get back and to get back and be able to help the team," he said. "It meant a lot to me personally, and it was very humbling, and it was awesome."

Morse was the Giants' DH in the first two games of the World Series. He drove in a run in the opener.

The only player on the Royals' World Series roster to pinch hit this postseason is Josh Willingham, who has one hit in four tries.

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval gestures after hitting in the batting cage during the Giants' workout Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants are scheduled to face the Kansas City Royals in the third game of the World Series on Friday.

Not that Yost considers his club at a loss as the Series moves to AT&T Park tied at 1-all.

"I don't really look at it as an advantage or disadvantage. I think that in the National League to have a bat like Billy Butler's on the bench coming in a situation, it could be the fourth inning, it could be the fifth inning or the sixth inning with guys in scoring position, that could be the difference," Yost said. "It's a different style of game, but I don't see where it's a huge disadvantage to us."

In the regular season as a pinch hitter, Butler went 4 for 6 with a home run and a walk. For his career, he's 11 of 35 with two homers, four RBIs and seven walks. Willingham is 14 for 65 with three homers and 13 RBIs lifetime as a pinch hitter.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost answers questions during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in San Francisco. The Royals are scheduled to face the San Francisco Giants the third game of the baseball World Series on Friday.

Butler figures the team with the "better and deeper bench" will have the edge. And the Royals are plenty confident in their backups.

"We're obviously playing their rules, but I feel like we have a good bench," Butler said. "I've had pretty good success in my career as a pinch hitter. I basically go up there and my job every day is basically like four pinch hits. Basically treat it as that."

Yost said other aspects of the NL style aren't strange to him, either. Not that everyone understands the nuances.

"As a group, we're not afraid of the National League game. We understand the National League game. We understand the value and when to double-switch. So, I think that our club is more suited for it," Yost said.

"There are times you want to double-switch with the player and you tell them, 'OK, get ready because if this guy gets on, we're going to double-switch,' and they're like, 'What? What? What?' ... 'Just run out to the field. I'll tell you which spot to go in and just tell the guy that's out there that he's got to come on in.'"