The pressure’s on for Eddie Butler in 2015 spring training.
Eddie Butler was called up too soon last season. I will never forget turning on the radio to listen to the Rockies game the night of June 3rd and hearing Jack Corrigan announce that the call-up had happened. I understand why it did–the Rockies had been hit by a slew of unfortunate injuries, primarily to the pitching staff, and it felt like there was nothing to be lost in getting a look at the exciting talent we had in the pipeline. Unfortunately, it turned out there was something to be lost–Butler’s health, as he was clearly not properly conditioned for big league pitching, and who knows how much confidence.
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Today, Patrick Saunders wrote about Butler fighting for his spot in the Rockies’ rotation during spring training this season. He doesn’t seem to be lacking for confidence, though the injury he dealt with following his first start in 2014 clearly took its toll. It’s good to hear that Butler at least feels up to the fight; he knows there are plenty of other pitchers ahead of him in line, and it’s up to him to earn the spot. He’s not necessarily an untried phenom anymore; instead, he’s a guy who still has a lot of potential, but if nothing else, has proved only that he was not quite ready for prime time last season.
Saunders quotes Butler as saying he’s “going to force (management’s) hand” about these decisions. Butler clearly plans to come into spring training and blow everybody away with his stuff. He put up a good showing last year, too, posting a 3.86 ERA in 7 innings of relief work. He only struck out one guy in those innings, which would foreshadow a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio in the regular season as well. In his minor league years, he struck out about twice as many men as he walked, but his bread and butter was keeping the ball on the ground–he’s a darling of the “pitch to contact” philosophy. However, he’s also been known to throw heat, and his stuff has great movement, which has led some to speculate whether Butler has been pushed into the pitch to contact model.
Here’s my concern about Butler at this point: he shouldn’t feel like he has to prove himself too soon. We have five starters who are MLB-ready, and another bullpen guy (David Hale) who still profiles as a starter in many ways. We don’t need Butler yet, assuming everyone stays healthy (a tricky assumption, I’m aware). I think part of the reason Jeff Bridich has been stockpiling pitchers is to give the minor league guys time to be really ready, something I appreciate and respect. While I want Butler to eventually be an awesome pitcher and a staple of our starting rotation, I want that to happen when the time is right. Hopefully, the management and coaching staff will make the right decision about how to use Butler going into the regular season.