Rangers fall to Royals in spring training opener

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by STEPHEN HAWKINS

Associated Press

Posted on February 27, 2011 at 6:48 PM

Updated Sunday, Feb 27 at 8:25 PM

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Billy Butler was born in April 1986, six months after the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in their last playoff appearance. He got a $30 million, four-year contract this winter with hopes of helping end that quarter-century postseason drought.

Butler had a two-run single and a stolen base in the first inning Sunday as the Royals beat the defending AL champion Texas Rangers 4-2 in the Cactus League opener for the teams that share a spring training complex.

In 533 career regular season games over the past four seasons, Butler had only one stolen base.

"Billy got one in an intrasquad game, too. You can pick your spot in those situations," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We're looking to do that whenever we can. He'll surprise some people."

Butler had the third consecutive groundball single to start the game off left-hander C.J. Wilson. Mike Aviles led off with a single through the left side of the infield, then Melky Cabrera's grounder was backhanded by third baseman Michael Young near the line. But his throw went out of play when Cabrera collided with first baseman Mitch Moreland. Cabrera was credited with an infield single and went to second on the throwing error.

After putting the Royals up 2-0, Butler got his stolen base.

"I've never had the green light. I got it under situations, mostly on breaking ball counts," Butler said. "Whenever I've got a hunch, he's pretty much turned us loose right now. If I don't abuse it, I think we can expand it. ... I've progressed forward, didn't get thrown out by 20 feet, so I think I'll try it again."

Wilson, the Rangers' scheduled opening day starter, retired the last six batters he faced with two strikeouts after Butler's hit.

"If you're giving up singles on the ground, that's not really that bad. ... When you're down in the zone, that's a good indicator, getting grounders and stuff," said Wilson, a 15-game winner last season after moving from the Rangers' bullpen. "Just working on mechanics."

Royals starter Kyle Davies struck out three in two scoreless innings, and Bruce Chen followed with a pair of scoreless innings.

New Kansas City right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who was with the Rangers last season in their first World Series appearance, homered off Dave Bush.

"It felt good to see those guys' faces today, too. You're in the complex with them, but you don't see them. What a great time I had with them last year. Going to the World Series was a special place I'll always hold in my heart," Francoeur said. "To get (a homer) versus them was even cooler. It felt good."

Bush is in Rangers camp on a minor-league deal after spending the last five seasons in Milwaukee. He walked two and gave up the homer in his two innings.

The Rangers got their runs on a two-run homer by Doug Deeds, another non-roster invitee.<

Notes: Young was at third base since Adrian Beltre is out with a strained right calf. Beltre could start trying to take grounders again Monday, but the Rangers will be cautious and he won't play in a game for at least another week. He says he's feeling better and could be playing if it was the regular season. ... Young is scheduled to get his first game at first base Monday. ... Rangers RHP Pedro Strop signed a $416,000 contract, the last Texas player to complete his 2011 contract. He threw a perfect inning.

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