Eddie Butler's first offseason as a pro got off to an inauspicious beginning. His first start in a full-season league was no worse for the wear, though.
The 46th overall pick in last year's Draft broke his left hamate bone when he took a line drive off the wrist the first week of October during instructional camp. He had surgery at the end of November, rehabbed through December and resumed throwing Jan. 21.
The process didn't appear to hinder the progress of the No. 10 Rockies prospect, however, when he took the mound Thursday.
The right-hander yielded one hit and a walk while striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings to earn an Opening Night victory for Class A Asheville in a 3-0 blanking of West Virginia.
"I took all December off. Relaxing, hanging out at home. Visit with family. No lingering effects [from the injury], everything's good," said Butler. "I think the time off really helped my arm.
"There's always a little bit [of Opening Day jitters], that first inning you're amped up. After that [Asheville catcher Tom] Murphy came up to me, told me I was lunging a little bit and got me back into place. Went well from there."
The effort was a solid first South Atlantic League start that followed up on the fine form the Radford University product showed in 2012. In 13 appearances -- 12 of them starts -- with Rookie-level Grand Junction in the Pioneer League, Butler went 7-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 67 2/3 innings. He struck out 55 and walked just 13.
This came after he earned Big South Conference Pitcher of the Year Honors and set a school record with a 2.20 ERA in 14 starts.
On Thursday, Tourists relievers Roberto Padilla, Rayan Gonzalez and Raul Fernandez combined on the final 3 2/3 frames to maintain the clean sheet. In total, the four Asheville hurlers allowed just two hits and three walks while striking out 14.
"I know Padilla, it was his first time really relieving. He came in and was throwing strikes, kept the ball down, got some outs," said Butler. "Rayan Gonzalez came in, blowing people away with his cutter and Fernandez was blowing people away with fastballs. It was great."
Butler, who grew up seven hours away from Asheville in Chesapeake, Va., also had a surprise waiting for him for the game. His father, girlfriend and her family made the trip to see his 2013 debut.
"I found out about 20 minutes before we got to the clubhouse [they would all be there]," he said. "I didn't know who all was coming, my girlfriend just texted me and said she was gonna be coming. It's great to have the support out there, especially when you're in an opposing field."
In addition to settling down Butler, Murphy carried some of the load offensively for the Tourists, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run. Julian Yan and Kyle Von Tungeln added RBIs.
Joely Rodriguez took the tough-luck loss for the Power, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over five innings.