Drafted in the 3rd round (81st overall) out of high school in 2006 by the Seattle Mariners, Tony Butler was one of the five players traded to Baltimore for Erik Bedard in 2008. He has now returned to the mound after surgery kept him out since June 2008. Now with Aberdeen after rehabbing in Sarasota, he talked to Dave Vatz for InsideTheOs.com about his rehab and the trade.
DV: What was your injury, and how are you feeling now?
Tony Butler: I had scar tissue removed off my labrum, and I’m feeling pretty good right now; I’m pain free, and I’ve made a lot of progress since I’ve been here, coming up from Sarasota. The first month down there throwing and rehabbing was quite the experience, and I’m working towards getting a lot better and never having to go through that again. I’m feeling really good now, though I don’t have my whole arm strength back yet.
DV: What was it like getting back on the field for the first time this season?
TB: My last time pitching a game was back in June last year in Delmarva, and then I had to go through the rehab process. After my surgery, I couldn’t throw for about six or seven weeks, then I started playing catch, and I tried to progress weekly. Eventually it came time for bullpens and then you’re up for the games. Sometimes I questioned whether I was ready or not, but I trusted the training staff down there and just told myself that I was ready, it was just going to be a roller coaster for the first month or so, and I’m really happy with my progress now. [Aberdeen pitching coach] Scotty MacGregor says he feels I’m way ahead of everything right now. I’m just happy to be out there and on a team again, away from Florida and the rehab facilities, it just feels good to join a team again and make the dreaded bus trips; it was a relief to make the bus trips, so I’m happy with everything.
DV: Do you know if the switch to the bullpen is permanent, or are you going back to being a starter?
TB: I believe they would still like me being a starter, with the bullpen I knew I wasn’t going to be throwing more than two innings [per outing] this year. My first seven times everything was one inning, and I had three or four outings down in Florida that were two innings, so I know I haven’t thrown over 30 pitches, and the other night I threw about 40. I could be totally wrong, the bullpen could be my role, but whatever my role is I just want to go out there and pitch. I’d like to be a starter, but if bullpen is what they want, that is what I will do.
DV: What do you throw?
TB: Fastball, curveball and changeup. The curveball has been my bread and butter all through little league, high school, and then the pro ball. I don’t have an overpowering fastball, but I made it for a lefty. Before my surgery I got it up around 90 give or take a mile or two. I’ll throw my fastball to get outs but the curveball is my go-to pitch.
DV: When you heard you were being traded from Seattle to Baltimore in 2008, what was going through your mind?
TB: Chris Tillman and I both got invited by Seattle to workout there in the spring training facility from November throughout the winter and ending in spring training. We were living together and his name was thrown into [the trade talks], and I started laughing at him about it, that he was a West Coast kid and liked to play on the West Coast, then he’d get traded to Baltimore, so I was laughing at him about it when the talks were going around. Then a few days later my name came into the mix, and I got it thrown back at me. It was a good thing to get traded. Your first team you get drafted by, you make a lot of friends, and some of those guys kind of grew on me, and I lived with a few of the guys, so I was keeping in touch with them, but once I was traded, another journey began and I switched spring training states, and I’m happy to be here.
DV: Does it make you feel good that the other four guys traded to Baltimore have made the majors, or does it put a little pressure on you?
TB: Every time you step on the mound you have pressure, it is just how you handle it. I know those guys; I lived with Kam Mickolio my first year in ’06, and Chris [Tillman] and I lived together for two spring trainings, and I’m happy for them. Everyone is doing well where they are, I just had a little bump in the road with my surgery, and I know I can get back to where I was at the first two years, and hopefully I can make that climb up there.