Drillers' Butler continues string of zeros

No. 2 Rockies prospect hasn't allowed earned run in last three starts

Eddie Butler ranks sixth in the Texas League with a 1.13 WHIP through 10 starts this season. (Rich Crimi/Tulsa Drillers)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | May 25, 2014 8:22 PM ET

His future skipper in the Majors says the young hurler's "real close." Eddie Butler's results are saying the same thing. Heck, even he's saying the same thing.

The Rockies' No. 2 prospect tossed seven scoreless innings Sunday afternoon to lead Double-A Tulsa to a 2-1 win over Midland. He scattered five hits and one walk while striking out three in the gem. He hasn't allowed an earned run since May 6, a streak that extends over three-plus starts and 22 2/3 frames.

"I'm feeling really good right now," said the right-hander, who put up a 1.80 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 149 2/3 innings across three levels in 2013. "I'm basically back to how I felt last year. I'm not trying to be something I'm not any more and really settling back to where I was.

"Today really felt like last year. I've got a better angle on my fastball, and I've been doing a better job of keeping it down in the zone. Everything's finally coming together, and I'm feeling more comfortable out there."

Butler delivered a six-pitch first inning, aided by Anthony Aliotti's inning-ended double play that erased Hiroyuki Nakajima's single in the previous at-bat. He needed only 24 pitches to get through the first three frames before a 23-pitch fourth, which included a walk to Aliotti and Josh Whitaker's single, put an end to that high level of efficiency.

The right-hander allowed two more singles -- one to Beau Taylor in the fifth and another to Whitaker in the sixth -- before exiting after seven. He finished with 93 pitches (58 for strikes) and threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 27 RockHounds he faced on the afternoon. Despite all the results, though, Butler added he didn't believe he had his full arsenal Sunday.

"We did a good job of moving the fastball around," he said. "But the slider was a real strike pitch, and we used it a lot later to get some strikeouts. ... I threw my curveball early and in my bullpens, but I never got the feel for it, so we went the slider instead."

Following the effort, the Radford College product has allowed 14 hits and six walks and struck out nine over in his last three starts spanning 19 2/3 innings -- a run that started with his first scoreless start on May 14. Butler has improved to 4-4 with a 2.39 ERA -- third-best in the Texas League and down from 3.62 after a six-inning, five-run outing May 1 -- and a sparkling 2.4 BB/9 rate.

It appears that's been enough to impress the higher-ups in the Rockies organization. In an article about the "Tulsa trio" -- Butler, Jon Gray and Daniel Winkler -- manager Walt Weiss admitted he thinks Butler is nearly ready to join the big club, especially given the fact that the club's starters rank 21st in the Majors with a 4.12 collective ERA entering Sunday.

"If he's not, then he's real close," Weiss told The Denver Post. "I don't think there's a lot of development left. It's just the experience of being here. That's obviously what he lacks. But as far as developing a pitch or more command, I think the development is behind him."

Butler seemed to agree, perhaps signifying a trip to Denver might not be too far away in his future after all.

"That's obviously great for him to say," Butler said of Weiss's comments. "I feel I'm up to it too. Of course, you have to wait for what the organization says, and so far, they've said there is still time to work on things.

"But I definitely feel like I'm ready. I know there are always concerns about bringing up young players and having them skip a level, but I want to do my best to squander those ideas when I do get there."

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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