Gritty Butler beginning to reap rewards for his work

April 13th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos' Athletics Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- Once a talented young player expected to perform at an early age, A’s manager Mark Kotsay can sense when one of his own might be pressing. So, when ’s 0-for-4 day at the plate on April 6 in Detroit brought him to 3-for-24 on the season, the skipper summoned the 23-year-old outfielder to his hotel room later that night.

“These young kids,” Kotsay said, “The pressure and anxiety they feel about being here and having to succeed, it’s real. … We had a great conversation about just making an adjustment and what that adjustment needs to be.”

The issue was not so much about Butler’s approach at the plate. Despite the lack of results, Kotsay was pleased with the at-bats. The discussion was more about getting Butler more on time with his swing. To do so, he asked Butler to show up early the next morning for some early work with A’s director of hitting Darren Bush.

Butler obliged. And though success did not immediately follow, Kotsay remained steadfast that a breakthrough would come soon. Butler's hard work paid off in Friday’s 2-1 win over the Nationals at the Coliseum. He was responsible for both of Oakland’s runs, first crushing a 445-foot solo blast to right-center -- the longest of his Major League career -- that was tagged 113 mph off the bat. The A’s later walked it off in the 10th after a battle with closer Kyle Finnegan that ended with Butler smacking a 1-2 fastball into left for an RBI single.

"I think [Butler’s] starting to sync up,” Kotsay said. “His at-bats [on Friday] were all good. For him, a young player in that moment to come through, it’s got to be a great feeling for him.”

The walk-off was Butler’s first of a young Major League career, and it served as a bit of redemption for previous missed attempts in which he came to the plate with a chance to either tie or win, most recently a 5-4 loss to the Red Sox on April 2 during which he struck out to end the game.

“I wanted it bad,” Butler said. “I had a couple of chances in the past for a chance to win the game and came up short. To get the job done for the team, that felt great.”

The rebuilding A’s view Butler as a core piece of their future. But they also realize he is going through his first full season as a big leaguer, and thus, will go through ups and downs just like any young player.

Still hitting just .179 through his first 13 games, Butler is getting a chance to fight through the early struggles. Friday’s performance and the continued support from Kotsay might just be what really gets him going.

“[Kotsay] kept telling me I was having great at-bats and to keep going,” Butler said. “He wanted me to come in early to get some work with Bushy, and it’s been paying off really well. I really appreciate him for that.”