Eddie Butler took a no-decision as the starting pitcher for the Modesto Nuts on Saturday night, which for a major leaguer might not sound like a successful outcome.
But the Colorado Rockies right-hander was on the mound for the first time since coming up sore after his major-league debut on June 6, so any solid outing that resulted in no undue postgame pain would be a positive.
And that’s what Butler achieved. He gave up three runs in a shaky first inning in a game Bakersfield eventually won 11-5 in 10 innings, yet Butler walked off the mound pain-free and – except for the outcome – pleased with the evening’s performance.
“It felt good,” said Butler, who rose from Modesto to the majors in less than a year. “I was a little antsy and was overthrowing in the first inning. About halfway through the second inning, I dialed it back and through the fourth I was able to maintain that level of intensity and actually hit some spots.”
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The numbers back Butler’s claim. He missed with his first seven pitches and needed 28 throws to get through the first inning. But the only runners he would allow during the rest of his stint came on two infield errors and he needed only 33 pitches to breeze through the final three innings.
Butler ended up throwing 58 pitches, including 40 strikes. His fastball stayed between 93-95 mph, with his final pitch of the night a swing-and-miss fastball clocked at 96 mph.
Modesto clawed back into the game on solo homers by Will Swanner and Francisco Sosa, then tied the score 3-3 in the eighth on four singles.
They also squandered a scoring chance in the third when the Blaze turned a triple play – the second three-way killing the Nuts have suffered in the last three games.
Juan Ciriaco was on third and Chris O’Dowd was on first when Mike Tauchman hit a drive to deep right center that center fielder Nick Benedetto ran down and caught with a dive.
O’Dowd was around second base when the catch was made and was doubled off first, and Ciriaco was called out at third on appeal for having tagged too soon.
The Blaze’s winning rally came off closer Rayan Gonzalez, who gave up four singles in the 10th inning before coming out. Harold Riggins, Modesto’s everyday first baseman in 2013, hit a two-out RBI single to break the tie, and the Blaze added seven more runs off Gonzalez and Peter Tago.
The Nuts scored twice in the 10th, including on a long solo homer by Jordan Ribera, but were denied recording back-to-back wins for the first time since May.
Butler opened this season at Double-A Tulsa, and the combination of a string of good outings with the Drillers and injuries on the Rockies’ staff hastened his call-up to the majors.
He threw 51/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his debut and felt good coming off the mound, but that night, he experienced soreness in his right armpit so severe he couldn’t raise his arm to shoulder level.
“This was the first time I’d ever had this soreness, so that’s why I brought it up to the training staff in Denver,” Butler said. “If it had been normal soreness, I wouldn’t have mentioned it, but being that it was something new, I thought it was a good idea to mention it.”
The Rockies put Butler on the disabled list as a precaution, and Saturday’s outing was his first in a live game in 36 days. From here, the plan is to send Butler to Triple-A Colorado Springs – a step he missed on his first upward journey through the minors – and then perhaps back to Denver.
And while his perfect return to John Thurman Field would have included a pitching victory, on the whole it was a very productive evening.
“I just wanted to get my timing right and I was a little off the first two hitters,” Butler said. “I wasn’t keeping the ball down and I didn’t have the movement. Once I slowed everything down and got into a consistent delivery, things started happening.”