Ned Yost on Billy Butler wanting to play first base: “I’d like to be an astronaut”

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Billy Butler spent the past two seasons as the Royals’ primary first baseman, starting 143 games there in 2009 and another 126 games there in 2010, but this year manager Ned Yost has opted to go with Kila Ka’aihue at first base while using Butler at designated hitter.

Butler is still holding out hope that his glove won’t merely collect cobwebs for the rest of his career, telling Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star “there’s no doubt” he’d prefer to be playing first base “but I’m not going to make an issue out of not playing over there.”

Asked if he understands Butler’s desire to play first base, manager Ned Yost replied:

Sure I do, but you know what, I’d like to be an astronaut … and for some reason, they just won’t let me. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes, people find their niche.

Ka’aihue is far from a sure thing to be in the Royals’ long-term plans, but with various big bats coming up through their stocked farm system odds are Butler will always be the most obvious DH choice. There have certainly been plenty of worse-fielding regulars at first base over the years, but Butler is never going to be anything but below average there and the time at DH isn’t hurting his production at the plate, as he’s hitting .368 with a 1.037 OPS through 16 games.

He has a much better chance of being an everyday first baseman again than Yost does of being an astronaut, but neither is an especially great idea.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.