Brian VanderBeek

Beek’s Blog: The Butler is doing it in Modesto tonight (with updates)

Final Update: 8:23 p.m. - Butler does not come out to pitch the fifth, so his evening is done. 58 pitches (40 strikes) and leaves on short end of 3-2 score. He allowed two hits, walked two, struck out two and had a wild pitch. I’ll have comments from Butler in the game story at

Update 8:10 p.m. - Butler hits 96 on his final pitch of an eight-pitch fourth. He’s at 58 pitches, so he’ll come out to pitch the fifth. Nuts trail Blaze 3-1, B4. BTW - Nuts flew into a triple play in the third inning - the second time in three games they’ve been on the wrong end of a triple-killing.

Update 7:59 p.m. - Throwing mostly sliders, Butler breezed through a 7-pitch third inning. He recorded his first strikeout of the game, and the Nuts trail 3-1 as they come to bat B3.

Update 7:40 p.m. - Butler fared better in the second, needing 16 pitches (12 strikes) to get through the inning. The Nuts committed their second infield error of the game behind him, but Butler stranded a Blaze runner at second. Blaze 3-1 as the Nuts bat B2.

Update 7:25 p.m. - Eddie Butler struggled in the first inning. His first seven pitches, all fastballs, were out of the zone. He gave up three earned runs on two hits and two walks and needed 27 pitches (16 strikes) to retire the Blaze. His fastball was 94-95 and his slider as 87-88. Blaze 3-0 as the Nuts come to bat B1.

Original post: I’ll be updating tonight’s blog throughout the evening to keep tabs on the rehab start of Eddie Butler, but to get things going here’s a tidbit I learned this evening about pitchers’ rehab appearances.

Place this in the category of something I should have picked up over the years, through the dozens of rehab starts I’ve covered in Modesto.

But it took Dean Espy warning tonight’s starting catcher Will Swanner to “get ready to catch those high-seamed balls” during a brief clubhouse chat to realize that when big-league pitchers make a minor league appearance, they’re furnished with major league baseballs to throw.

So when Butler is throwing to Bakersfield tonight, the ball in play will have been made in Costa Rica and will bear the signature “Allan H. Selig.” When Blaze starter Mike Dennhardt is on the mound, the ball in play will have been made in China and will bear the signature of California League commissioner Charlie Blaney.

So what’s the difference between the balls? Technically they’re made to the same specs - size and weight - and pitchers claim to be able to tell the difference between the two.

Nuts’ manager Don Sneddon told me that the Rockies sent several dozen major league balls to Modesto (pre-humidor, one would think) at the start of the season, just in case there was a rehab start. Sneddon said there were balls left over from the home start made earlier this season by Jhoulys Chacin, who also pitched one game for Modesto in Lake Elsinore.

So the real difference between the balls? If you catch a major league ball in the stands, it might be worth more than the minor league ball.

And it does seem strange in a way that Butler would be using the MLB ball. He suffered a shoulder inflammation after his major league debut on June 6, having thrown 5 1/3 innings. Prior to that, he worked 280 innings using the balls of four different minor leagues.

Yet despite having the lone major league appearance, Butler went out of his way to keep alive one of the game’s grand traditions. He went into his own pocket to buy Saturday’s post-game spread - a complete buffet dinner catered by Texas Roadhouse.

In any case, watch this space and my Twitter feed @modestobeek for Butler updates tonight.