There was only one team with the power to keep Eddie Butler from working deep into the Modesto Nuts' game Friday night.
That team wasn't the visiting Bakersfield Blaze. It was the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies' front office has determined Butler's development will best be served by limiting him to no more than five innings in any start the rest of the season.
Bakersfield became the first team to reap the benefits of that decision, erupting for four runs in the sixth inning en route to a 5-3 victory over the Nuts in front of 3,463 fans at John Thurman Field.
"That's what cost us the game," said Nuts manager Lenn Sakata. "The kid was cruising and he would have at least got us through the seventh.
"That's the way it goes and there's not much to say because you can't do anything about it."
Butler said he was told two days ago of the five-inning ceiling he'll wear the rest of the season. In his first restricted outing, he needed only 61 pitches to breeze twice through the Blaze lineup, leaving with a 2-1 lead.
"It's a little bit of an aggravation, but I understand why they're doing it," Butler said. "They want to limit the innings of a young guy in his first full season."
The Rockies have done this before. In 2008 they put this exact same five-inning restriction on Jhoulys Chacin.
There are commonalities in the Modesto situations of Chacin and Butler. Both are young, hard-throwing righties who reached Modesto in their first full season after opening the year in Asheville.
Chacin threw 111 innings in 16 starts in the South Atlantic League before coming to Modesto on June 29, 2008. He went on to go deep in several games for the Nuts before having the five-inning yoke placed on his starts.
Chacin finished the season with 197 innings. It's unfair to infer a direct correlation between being babied in the minor leagues and subsequent durability in the majors, but Chacin's 2008 innings total remains his career high-water mark.
Butler's Asheville totals hardly approached Chacin's workhorse status, since he totalled 54 innings in nine Sally League starts before coming to Modesto.
Counting Friday's workout, he's accumulated 83 innings this season a total that would tie him for the California League lead.
Butler was staked to a 2-0 lead when Taylor Featherston ripped a triple to center that chased home both Jose Rivera and Kyle Von Tungln.
The Blaze pushed across a run in the fourth on Juan Silverio's two-out infield single a bouncer up the middle that Butler instinctively deflected away from shortstop Trevor Story.
Butler got out of the inning with a ground ball, then needed only seven pitches to induce three ground ball outs in the fifth.
Once in the dugout, he didn't know what to do.
"Do I go into the clubhouse and put on my turf shoes and hang out? Or do I stand around and watch," Butler said. "It was weird. I knew it was coming. But I came out and looked at (pitching coach Dave) Burba and said 'Am I done? Damn, I really am.' "
Geoff Parker, who has been solid in relief this season, came on to start the sixth and failed to retire any of the six Blaze hitters he faced allowing three hits and three walks before being removed.
Bakersfield wouldn't get a hit the rest of the way, but the damage was done.
Modesto pushed across a run in the eighth on Ryan Casteel's RBI single his third hit of the game, but for all intents, this game was lost on the strength of a decision made in Denver.
"My frustration is from a competitive standpoint," Butler said. "Obviously I want the ball in my hand and that's just how I am. I want to feel like I'm in control. Tonight, throwing 61 pitches, I felt like I had so much more left in the tank and I wasn't able to use that to help the team out."
NUTS NOTES Modesto closer Dan Oberg, who threw the ninth inning for the Nuts on Friday, has been added to the California League All-Star roster. Oberg is tied for the league lead with 14 saves.
Nuts starters Dan Winkler (8-2, 2.35) and Chris Jensen (2-4, 3.74) previously were named to the team, which will take on the Carolina League all-stars Tuesday in San Jose.
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek
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