Putting Butler on a limit confuses my brain

Posted by Brian VanderBeek on June 15, 2013 

— Excuse me while I argue with myself, but the left side of my brain just doesn’t agree with the right side about Colorado’s decision to limit Eddie Butler’s starts to five innings for the rest of the season.

The left side, being the center of critical thinking, sees all the logic in the move, while the right side, being more emotional, would like to see Butler have a chance to be a great pitcher for Modesto on his journey to the majors.

I recorded some of this internal conversation, and here it is.

Lefty: Do the math. Butler has thrown 83 innings so far this season. If he works five innings in each of the 14 starts he’s scheduled to get in the second half, he’ll finish the season with 153 innings, and that’s enough for a 22-year-old in his first full season.

Righty: Sure, that’s enough if the goal is to develop pitchers capable of eventually throwing only 190 innings in a major league season. That’s a good way to blow out a bullpen.

Lefty: But the goal also is to make sure Butler’s not overworked, because a pitcher with a sore arm does nobody any good.

Righty: If the goal is to keep prospects from injuring themselves, then why let them pitch at all in the minor leagues?

Lefty: Well, because Butler’s not ready for the majors, so he needs the experience he’ll get at each step of the minors.

Righty: I guess that doesn’t include developing the ability to work through the first hint of fatigue. Isn’t that a huge part of being a successful major league pitcher?

Lefty: Sure, but he has several years to build his workload to the point where he’ll have to execute pitches while tiring.

Righty: But isn’t that a skill best developed in the low minors? As it stands, no one will know whether Butler can pitch while tired until he reaches Double-A. That’s a pretty high level to reach before he’s exposed to his first possible major failure.

Centerbrain: Stop it, you guys. You’re giving me a headache.

What isn’t in question is that the decision to limit Butler the rest of the season indicates that the Rockies consider him a top-notch prospect. They wouldn’t be babying him if they didn’t expect him to be pitching in Denver in a few years.

But as long as Butler’s halted at five innings, they’re limiting his exposure to failure, slowing his progress toward being a pitcher capable of working deep into games and eliminating entirely any chance he’ll learn to execute pitches against professional hitters while fatigued.

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