Butler growing up quickly in Rockies rotation

Righty limits Phillies to one run as last-minute starter

Butler growing up quickly in Rockies rotation

PHILADELPHIA -- Rockies rookie Eddie Butler had that moment Saturday afternoon, during the team's 5-2 victory over the Phillies, when his approach went from that of trainee to boss.

Butler faced the Phillies' Ryan Howard with two out and two on in the third inning, after a walk to Chase Utley. Howard had bested Butler for a first-inning RBI double, and homered off him when the teams met earlier this month. Catcher Michael McKenry checked Butler's temperature.

He was on fire.

"Mac comes out, 'Hey, you all right?'" Butler said. "He said, 'Let's go right at him here.'

"And I said, 'Let's blow him up. Let's go fastballs in on him.' That was the game plan."

Three fastball strikes later, Howard fisted a grounder up the middle that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki handled easily.

"Anytime Howard shows up and there are guys on base, you're uncomfortable," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "But Eddie did a nice job."

Butler (3-5) pitched six innings, giving up just one run with three strikeouts against four hits and one walk. He threw just 77 pitches, but Weiss removed him for offense -- a strategy that produced a two-run top of the seventh.

Butler was originally slated to start Monday at home against the Dodgers. But Jorge De La Rosa, the scheduled starter, was scratched because of a cut on his left middle finger that hadn't healed, and Butler was on normal rest.

Butler, 24, is being given a huge plate as a rookie. A supplemental first-round Draft pick out of Radford University in 2012, Butler made his debut last June having not pitched in Triple-A. He made just one start at that level last year, while returning from an injury. For a franchise whose best pitchers -- such as Aaron Cook, Jason Jennings, Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez -- had long Triple-A tenures before debuting, the move could be seen as risky.

But maybe Butler can handle it. After pitching just 5 2/3 innings over two starts -- one a three-inning mess against the Phillies at Coors Field on May 20 -- Butler has gone six innings in each of his last two starts and is aggressively using his sinker and the four-seam fastball he added last year.

On Saturday, Butler garnered 11 outs on grounders, including one doiuble play, and pumped first-pitch strikes to 14 of 22 batters. The 63.6 percent rate was up from 57 percent in his last start and 53 percent in his first seven.

Butler's outing followed Chad Bettis' eight scoreless innings Friday night. Kyle Kendrick has pitched well for four starts, and David Hale and Chris Rusin each gave a stellar spot-start when called up from Triple-A recently. Rockies starters are 5-0 with a 2.55 ERA in their last seven starts. It's all happening with De La Rosa and Jordan Lyles (Sunday's starter) battling nagging injuries.

"We've got some young guys growing up on the job and some guys that have stepped in and performed very well," Weiss said.

Put a confident Butler at the top of that list.

"That's who I am, that's who I've been," Butler said. "Today was a great day."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.