KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Marlins pitcher Carlos Zambrano had a sly grin on his face after crossing home plate Sunday.
Zambrano had just crushed a Joe Blanton pitch 418 feet into the stands, silencing the Phillies faithful.
"As a pitcher in the National League, you have to be able to bunt, run, hit. I take that seriously," Zambrano told reporters afterward. "I'm proud of what I do."
Zambrano has experience swinging the bat, having spent all 12 of his season s in the National League. But on Thursday , the Royals pitchers were taking their hacks as the team traveled to Pittsburgh.
Friday night's game will require some lineup shuffling.
The Royals will move Billy Butler from the designated hitter spot to first base, switch Eric Hosmer from first to right field and slide Jeff Francoeur from right to center. Jarrod Dyson will take a seat on the bench.
You may not be thrilled with Dyson's .266 average, but that'll look pretty good Friday night when Luke Hochevar steps to the plate looking for his first big-league hit (zero for 11 lifetime). And who knows how much Francoeur learned from his previous three innings of center-field experience?
"We are built to have a DH in there, and we are not built to have our pitchers involved in the offense part of the game," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "That is a little bit of a disadvantage, because National League (pitchers) are. They're bunting all the time. They're hitting all the time. They're running the bases."
Not surprisingly, Yost has had Royals pitchers taking batting practice, and they've worked on laying down bunts and running the bases.
But is this fair to the Royals or the rest of the American League teams? It's bound to be a future point of discussion because when the Houston Astros move to the American League next year, there will be interleague games throughout the season.
Former Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds, now an analyst on the MLB Network, thinks interleague games give NL teams an edge. He talked earlier this year about the Red Sox in particular .
"(Designated hitter) David Ortiz is allergic to his leather," Reynolds said. "Now he's got to go ahead and try to find some way to bring that glove back out there with him. Then you put Adrian Gonzalez (in the outfield), so you're putting two players in positions they are not expected to play in."
Reynolds makes a persuasive point.
However, there are those in the National League who see the designated hitter helping American League teams in the long run.
After watching the Tigers sign former Brewer Prince Fielder after Albert Pujols left the Cardinals for the Angels last winter, Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin noted the length of those deals.
Fielder, 28, got a nine-year contract and Pujols, 32, signed for 10 years.
"What's happening is that National League teams just can't compete on the length of contracts for guys like that," Melvin told reporters. "The Cardinals and our team were both willing to give those guys six years.
"But when the length of those deals got to nine and 10 years, we just couldn't compete b?" not when AL clubs have the DH to protect themselves on the back end of contracts that long."
Another valid point.
Perhaps a designated hitter can shed some light on this matter. Particularly one who likes playing the field b?" the Royals' Billy Butler.
Turns out, Butler doesn't feel strongly one way or another.
"I play in a league that has a DH," Butler said. "I'd play first base on a team if there wasn't a DH. The DH is just like playing first base in the NL. You've got to have somebody playing there and somebody playing the outfield. Obviously, you're going to see the way our team is going to be shaped if we didn't have a DH when we're in Pittsburgh.
"We're going to put the best team on the field that is going to win a ballgame. That's the way it is. It doesn't matter if there's a DH or not."
Ultimately, to DH or not DH may be a moot point anyway. Four years ago, commissioner Bud Selig visited Kauffman Stadium and chatted on air with Denny Matthews.
That day, Selig said he had no intention of changing things, because he likes the leagues having a different approach to the game.
Butler agreed. His goals is always the same, whether the DH is abolished, expanded to both leagues or remains as is.
"You've got to go out there and win a ballgame each day," Butler said. "That's the bottom line."