Royals' Butler picked as AL's top player in September

The strong September kick by first baseman Billy Butler resulted in his selection Tuesday as the American League player of the month, but the Royals missed a chance to sweep the two major monthly awards when Seattle’s Felix Hernandez beat out Zack Greinke as the pitcher of the month.

Hernandez’s achievement figures to fuel debate regarding the Cy Young Award since he is generally viewed as Greinke’s stiffest competition for that honor.

Cy Young ballots, like all voting for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards, must be submitted prior to the start of postseason play. The results will be announced in mid-November.

Hernandez finished 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 34 starts. Greinke was 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA in 33 starts. The BBWAA voting panel is different from the panel that selects the monthly awards.

Butler is the first Royal selected as player of the month since Carlos Beltran in April 2004. Butler batted .363 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 27 games with a .459 on-base percentage and a .657 slugging percentage.

Minnesota outfielder Michael Cuddyer finished second to Butler after batting .282 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 27 games. New York first baseman Mark Teixeira and Toronto outfielder Adam Lind also received votes.

Hernandez went 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in six starts in winning the pitching award over Greinke, who was 3-0 with a 0.55 ERA in five starts. New York’s C.C. Sabathia (4-0, 1.29) and Toronto’s Roy Halladay (4-2 and 1.47) also received votes.

Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee and Atlanta right-hander Jair Jurrgens were picked as the National League player and pitcher of the month. Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson and Milwaukee infielder Casey McGehee were picked as the AL and NL rookies of the month.

The Royals were looking to sweep the two major awards for the first time since George Brett and Bret Saberhagen did so in July 1985. The club did it on two other occasions: Brett and Larry Gura in July 1980, and Willie Wilson and Gura in September 1981.

The American League began selecting a player of the month in 1974 and a pitcher of the month in 1979.

Butler is only the 10th Royals player selected for the monthly honor. Brett was a six-time choice, while eight others won it once: John Mayberry, Wilson, Hal McRae, Jeff King, Joe Randa, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney and Beltran.

Clutch award

Greinke is also one of six September nominees for the Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Month Presented by Pepsi, which seeks to recognize the player who consistently performed best in the clutch.

Oddly, perhaps, neither Hernandez nor Butler is among the other nominees, which consist of Cuddyer, Lee, Sabathia, Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Atlanta pitcher Javier Vazquez.

The winner is determined through an online vote at through 10:59 p.m. Friday.

Greinke won the award in April.

Minor details

Here’s a bit of hope for the future. The Royals placed five players among the top 20 prospects in the Class A Carolina League in Baseball America’s just-released rankings.

Left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery was ranked No. 7, followed by third baseman Mike Moustakas at No. 8, lefty Danny Duffy at No. 11, outfielder David Lough at No. 16 and shortstop Jeff Bianchi at No. 19.