Butler in line for rotation spot after positive long-toss session

Butler in line for rotation spot after positive long-toss session

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With his right shoulder feeling better, Rockies right-hander Eddie Butler threw long toss on Wednesday with surprisingly positive results, according to manager Walt Weiss. With that, Butler is in line to earn an available starting rotation job.

Butler left his last start, Monday against the Athletics, with what was described as right shoulder fatigue, and was told not to do anything for a couple of days. But Butler began feeling better Tuesday and by Wednesday was itching to test it. If Butler can pitch Saturday, he is in line to start the third regular-season game at Milwaukee next Wednesday.

"It went well, probably better than we had anticipated," Weiss said. "But you know how this works. We've got to see how he shows up tomorrow, but very positive signs."

Butler (1-3, 3.07 ERA) was called up to the Majors last June, but made just three starts because of right shoulder issues. When his shoulder felt "weird" on a couple of pitches Monday, he reported it to trainers and was removed. But doctors didn't see enough to order an MRI. Weiss noted that the fatigue simply scared Butler, who is trying to learn what he can and cannot endure on the mound.

But this isn't the time to be begging out of starts -- not with the possibility that he can immediately begin showing the talent that made him the 46th overall choice in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, as well as the No. 2 prospect in the Rockies' organization according to MLB.com. So Butler is making every effort to determine whether there truly is a problem with the shoulder.

"He needs to look normal and feel normal," Weiss said. "Anything other than that would probably set him back as far as being on schedule to start. He has to pass those tests today."

With the Rockies likely starting with a four-man rotation until needing a fifth guy on April 14, righty Kyle Kendrick will start Monday's opener, followed by Jordan Lyles, with Butler in line to start the finale of the three-game, season-opening set. Lefty Tyler Matzek will start the April 10 home opener.

Butler has struck out eight, walked five and given up 15 hits in 14 2/3 Cactus League innings this spring. Butler demonstrated his potential in 2013, when he posted a 1.80 ERA and struck out 143. Butler can consistently throw a 96 mph fastball and tends to work low in the zone -- traits that work well for someone whose home games are at Coors Field. But he had to show he can handle the load physically.

The Rockies don't need a fifth starter until April 14, but one option is to carry one for protection.

Second-year righty Christian Bergman, scheduled to pitch Friday against Seattle; righty No. 1 prospect Jon Gray, who will throw in a Minor League game Thursday; or righty Chad Bettis, who threw four innings Tuesday and would need his pitching schedule adjusted, could win either the Wednesday job or another slot if the Rockies decide to make one available.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.