Butler, Murphy sent to Minors for additional grooming

Reliever, catcher seen as potential long-term solutions

Butler, Murphy sent to Minors for additional grooming

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies liked the improvement of right-hander Eddie Butler and the talent of catcher Tom Murphy, even though what's next for both is a step back. The pair was among players optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque Friday.

The Rockies also optioned right-handers Carlos Estevez (Triple-A) and German Marquez (Double-A Hartford), and outfielder Raimel Tapia (Double-A). The team reassigned the following non-roster invitees to Minor League camp: left-hander Sam Moll and outfielders Noel Cuevas and Jordan Patterson.

Butler, 25, was on the outside of the projected rotation when camp began, and he is ticketed to begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque to hone his ability to put away innings and hitters.

The decision involving Murphy, ranked No. 10 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 30 Rockies Prospects, means Dustin Garneau has the inside shot at backup catcher, although there is still competition. It also gives development time to Murphy, who is seen as the Rockies' catching future.

Murphy's solo shot

Manager Walt Weiss said Butler showed much better two-seam fastball than he has displayed in 19 starts over two seasons at the Major League level (4-11 with a 6.04 ERA). Despite the solid sequences, Butler is 1-0 with a 7.04 ERA in three outings this spring -- with six runs in 7 2/3 innings, with every run coming with two outs. One of the outings was scoreless.

"A lot of positives from Eddie this camp. That sounds weird when he's in the position he's in right now," Weiss said. "He took a lot of steps forward this camp. The ball is coming out of his hand better than I've seen it over the past two seasons at the big league level. He's been one of our best guys at staying in good counts. He gets strike one. The first half of the count, he's really good.

"It's the second half of the AB or finishing the AB where he needs to get better, finishing innings. He gets quick outs, then being able to put away hat third out -- those were the types of things we talked to him about. But I was very happy with the way he's throwing the ball. Velocity is really good. It looks like he's got his power two-seamer back -- a lot to be encouraged about."

Regular playing time is unlikely for Murphy, who turns 25 on April 3, with starter Nick Hundley at the end of a two-year, $6.25 million contract. So the Rockies will continue the project of grooming Murphy, who played in Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors, as well as for Team USA in the Pan Am Games, last year. Murphy hit .257 with a double and three home runs in an 11-game Major League trial last year.

This spring, Murphy is 2-for-21 (.095), but both hits were home runs. His power intrigues the Rockies.

"He's very hard on himself and he expects a lot of himself, and that's a good thing, most of the time," Weiss said. "Sometimes with athletes, that's one of their bigger challenges, too. But I would rather have that guy than the opposite of that guy.

"There are a lot of things to like about Murphy. We have seen the strength. We have seen him mishit balls on the other side of the fence, so it's a very high ceiling. It's just slowing things down and not fighting himself. That's the next step."

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