Climbing the ladder
Former GJ Rox ace Butler pitching well at Class A Advanced level
On Eddie Butler’s first day in a Modesto Nuts uniform, the game was postponed because of a bomb threat.
“I was thinking, ‘Who did I make mad?’ ” the former Grand Junction Rockies ace said, laughing.
The club has also had to deal with a flooded clubhouse.
Yep, Butler is having a blast in Class A Advanced baseball.
He started the season in Asheville, the Colorado Rockies’ Class A team in the Carolina League. After dominating there with a 5-1 record and 1.66 ERA, he was promoted to Modesto, the Class A Advanced team. In six starts with the Nuts, he’s 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA, striking out 34 and walking nine.
“They told me that afternoon, after a day game (that he was moving up). We road-tripped back to Asheville, got there about 9 o’clock that night, I packed and left at 9 the next morning,” said Butler, who was a Pioneer League All-Star last summer, going 7-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 13 games.
He struck out 55 and walked only 13 in his first season as a professional after being drafted in the Comp A round out of Radford University. As is the case in minor league baseball, he’s traveling light.
“I’ve got a baseball bag that’s about half-full, a couple of extra pairs of (practice) pants, a suitcase and a bookbag,” he said.
He was promoted after the Tourists’ game on May 22, flying across the country, arriving in time to travel to Lake Elsinore and get chased out of the park by the bomb threat.
He pitched two days later.
It took a couple of weeks for him to settle in, not only for his body to adjust to a three-hour time difference (“I was waking up at 5 o’clock the first couple of days”) but to be paired with a host family.
Butler has made pitching adjustments at the Class A level after a couple of shaky outings. His second start, May 30 against High Desert, he gave up five runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings and took the loss.
“That one game I wasn’t spotting up anything. Everything I was throwing was right down the middle, and like I said, they make you pay for that,” Butler said.
“Finally (in his first win on June 4) I was able to get to the corners and work around a few hits, got some good plays behind me in the field.”
Butler takes what he learned last summer along with input from his other pitching coaches, including Modesto’s Dave Burba, in daily meetings with the pitchers and catchers.
“Attack guys,” Butler said. “(GJ pitching coach Ryan) Kibler said these guys aren’t that great, they aren’t big-league hitters, they’re not going to square everything up. Go at them, make them hit the ball.”
Now, he’s working on making sure he stays back over the pitching rubber, his weight back to keep more power in his pitches.
“In Asheville you get away with a lot more things. The hitters aren’t quite as good as they are now,” Butler said. “You’re able to get away with some bad pitches and work out of jams a little bit more than you can here. They make you pay; it’s a little different.”
Butler is the new guy in the clubhouse but said his teammates are accepting. And, he hopes, he’ll have to face the same situation in another clubhouse soon.
“Going into the season, when I found out I was going to Asheville, my goal was to pitch well and move up to Modesto,” Butler said. “Now I’ve set the goal to get to the next level, to get to (Double A) Tulsa by the end of the year. If it happens or not, that’s what I’m striving for, and to start next year in Tulsa.”