Talented Butler can turn callup into a permanent stay
Rockies' No. 2-ranked prospect hoping for long stay in big leagues
DENVER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Eddie Butler will make his Major League debut Friday night. It won't be his last start, either.
Butler is getting the call because the Rockies' rotation is a mess. He, however, has earned the opportunity.
And it's not an audition. Colorado's second-ranked prospect is coming to the Majors with the expectation from the people who run the Rockies that he is in the big leagues to stay.
"You are talking about a kid with a pitch mix, the stuff and command you look for in a big league pitcher," said Mark Wiley, Colorado's director of pitcher operations. "He's figured things out faster than most. You never know what the second deck is going to bring, but you do know this young man has shown he is ready for the chance."
Butler is on the big league fast track. But that shouldn't surprise. He is a focused young man. Butler has had a goal since his youth, and he never lost touch with what he needed to get better.
Consider Butler's decision to turn down scholarship offers from SEC schools when he came out of high school, opting instead of attend Radford University in southwestern Virginia. The SEC schools tried to woo him by bragging about their success and trips to the College World Series. Radford coaches talked about what they could do to help make Butler better.
They kept their end of the bargain.
Butler will become only the third Radford product to play in the Majors. Phil Leftwich was a second-round pick of the Angels in 1990, the 64th player taken overall, and the Rockies signed Ryan Speier as an undrafted free agent in August 2001.
Butler was a supplemental pick after the first round in the 2012 Draft, the 46th player taken overall, and on Friday night -- two years and two days after the day he was drafted -- he will take the mound at Coors Field to face the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Butler will certainly be a focal point for Rockies fans, who have seen their team lose the past seven games, including the last three to Arizona -- the first time Colorado has been swept in a three-game series at Coors Field since Aug. 3-5, 2012, by San Francisco.
Butler is being given a chance to provide a lift for a rotation which has had at least two of the projected members of its season-opening five pitchers on the disabled list since the season began. The rotation has averaged 5.08 innings a game, the only team in the Major Leagues averaging less than 5 2/3 innings.
Wiley doesn't see that as a pressure for Butler.
"He might get amped up," said Wiley, "but he won't be scared. He's ready for us to put him in [the rotation] and let him pitch. I don't see him as a guy who should be going up and down. There have been some good pitchers who have done that over the years, but I don't foresee him doing that."
Butler will become the 22nd pitcher in franchise history to make his big league debut with a start -- the 12th in the last decade.
None of the previous 21 made it to the big leagues quicker.
Bryan Rekar, a second-round pick in 1993, got the call two years, one month and 16 days after being drafted, five days quicker than Jeff Francis -- the No. 1 pick in 2002 -- and Jason Jennings -- the No. 1 pick in 1999.
Rekar had his early moments, including allowing one run in seven innings of a July 19, 1995, win against Philadelphia at Coors Field. Francis and Jennings both became solid members of the Rockies' rotation.
Francis didn't get off to the best start. He lost at Atlanta on Aug. 25, 2004, working five innings and allowing six earned runs in an 8-1 loss.
Jennings made his debut at Shea Stadium on Aug. 23, 2001. Not only did he pitch a five-hit shutout, but he hit a home run -- the only pitcher to ever accomplish that duo in his debut. The next season, he earned the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Neither Jennings nor Francis made their debut at Coors Field.
Butler will become the 11th Rockies pitcher to make his debut in a start at Coors Field. The previous 10 were a combined 2-4, including Juan Nicasio, who allowed one unearned run in seven innings of a 15-4 victory against St. Louis on May 28, 2011.
Butler arrives with a brief-but-successful Minor League resume. He is a composite 20-10 with a 2.05 ERA in 52 games (51 starts). In 17 starts at Double-A, beginning last year and carrying over into this season, Butler is 5-4 with a 1.96 ERA.
"He's ready to compete and should be able to learn and stay in the rotation," said Wiley. "Our defense will be a big plus for a young man with a good sinker."
Butler gets his chance on Friday night.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.