Ned Yost media session: July 25, 2014

When Kansas City and Cleveland resume action this evening, one day after a wild 14-inning series-opening affair, the Royals will do so without the services of Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer.

With Hosmer ailing as the result of a right hand injury, it was Butler taking his place at first base for the majority of last night’s contest. Tonight, however, the Royals will turn to Raul Ibanez to man the bag and bat sixth, while Nori Aoki remains in Butler’s customary designated hitter role. According to manager Ned Yost, the decision to keep Butler out of the lineup in favor of Ibanez and Aoki was made with an eye toward improving upon the club’s offensive output.

“It’s the offense,” said Yost. “We’re looking for offense. I mean, we played 14 innings last night and got five or six hits. We’re looking for offense. We score some runs and we’ll win some games, and it’s been a struggle for Billy lately.”

In 20 games since June 28, Butler is 15-for-75 (.200) with 18 strikeouts and just two RBI.

“It’s puzzling for him,” said Yost. “It’s puzzling for everybody. Billy has been working his tail off trying to figure this thing out. He feels fine, he’s just not getting results. It’s something that he will continue to work through and, hopefully, get through.

“We’re at a point now where we’re running out of time. We’re past the 100-game mark. Offense needs to be a premium for us. We need to score some runs. We’ve given a number of guys some extended periods to work through some non-productivity, if you will. But it just gets to a point when you’ve got to do something a little bit different.”

One key offensive component that has been afforded opportunities to work through “non-productivity,” third baseman Mike Moustakas, has rewarded Yost’s patience. Moustakas has been one of the team’s most productive hitters this month, hitting .281 (16-for-57) with four home runs and 10 RBI since June 30.

“All along we felt like, at the end of the year, his numbers were going to be okay, especially his power numbers,” said Yost. “He did this last year. He really struggled until the middle of June, first of July, and then he played extremely well. We’re hoping, and we’re pretty convinced, that he’s going to do the same thing [this year].”

Yordano Ventura will be on the hill for Kansas City this evening as he looks to match an outstanding performance by Danny Duffy a night ago. Duffy was dominant through seven innings, allowing just two hits, and striking out seven.

“He’s just commanding the baseball,” said Yost. “He’s always been a fierce competitor, but he’s duplicating his mechanics which means he’s more consistent in the strike zone. His breaking ball has been very consistent. He’s had the ability to throw strikes with the fastball and get ahead in the count, manage his pitch count and go deeper into games. How, why, I don’t know. Young guys, it clicks for them. When Bruce got hurt, all of a sudden, something clicked for Danny.”

By Kolby Paxton

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