Butler Proving to be a Royal Draft Gem

Filed under Kansas City Royals
May 6, 1969

The first two rounds of the American League expansion draft had been completed last October and it was time for the Royals to make their first selection in the third round. They announced they were taking Bill Butler, a lefthanded pitcher, from the Detroit organization. As news events go, it rated near the bottom of the scale. Butler had won all of five games with Montgomery (Southern) the year before while losing three. His ERA was an unexciting 3.09. The world had heard little of Butler. From all appearances, he was just one of 60 names chosen in the draft that day.

When the Royals went to spring training, Butler did not figure in their plans. He was only 22 and his total pitching experience added up to about three and one-half seasons. As spring progressed, Butler began to attract attention. He made his first big splash with a five-inning scoreless stint against the Red Sox. From that point on, Manager Joe Gordon was highly interested. Butler won a spot on the staff, pitched three scoreless innings against the Cardinals just before the season opened and edged higher up on Gordon’s list.

Today it appears Butler may prove to be one of the Royals’ best choices in the expansion draft. Butler has a 1-2 record after five starts, but his ERA is 1.80, and he had only given up 26 hits in 35 innings. He leads the staff with 24 strikeouts. “Butler has the ability to become an outstanding pitcher,” Gordon commented. “I don’t want to say he can become another Koufax,” the manager continued. “That would not be fair and I don’t know if his curve will ever be that good, but I think he has the stuff to become a 20-game winner.”

Charlie Metro, the Royals’ player procurement director, marked Butler down early as a draft possibility. “I saw Bill pitch in Montgomery early last season,” Metro said. “I knew a little about him before. We were especially interested in the Detroit organization, since we felt they had the finest young pitchers of any organization in the majors.” “You could see that he was a pitcher with a tremendously fine arm and good coordination. You had to have a little vision, but I could visualize what he would be like after he got to our camp and someone like Mel Harder worked with him.” Butler feels his pitching has undergone a great change within a few months. “I was just a thrower a year ago at this time,” Butler said. “I was overthrowing and, as a result, I wasn’t getting good stuff on the ball. I didn’t have a curve at all. My curve didn’t start to come until I began pitching winter ball in Venezuela. The value placed on each player in the expansion draft was $175,000. In Butler’s case, the Royals got themselves a genuine bargain in this lefthander.

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