Butler not content with second-best

Cubs righty making case for Opening Day roster despite long odds

Butler not content with second-best

MESA, Ariz. -- Eddie Butler doesn't consider himself insurance for the Cubs' starting rotation. The right-hander is aiming to make the Opening Day roster.

Butler made a case for himself on Thursday, holding the Dodgers to one hit over four innings. He now leads the Cactus League with four wins.

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"That's a team that usually gets me pretty good," Butler said Friday. "To just go out and throw the ball well was really exciting, and we were able to come away with a win."

It's not as if the Dodgers have never seen Butler, who pitched three seasons with the Rockies and has faced them seven times since 2014.

"You had pretty much everybody in there," Butler said of the Dodgers lineup. "[Justin] Turner is kind of my nemesis. To be able to get him out both times he came up was a good feeling. I got Adrian [Gonzalez] to ground out. I had some fun."

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Butler wasn't kidding. Turner is 9-for-14 against the pitcher, and Gonzalez is 5-for-16.

"He's been a strike-thrower with good stuff, and that's the thing that sets him apart from a lot of young pitchers," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday. "He's got good stuff and he knows where it's going, and that really equals a Major League pitcher.

"There's still some things to work through, just the mental side, slowing the game down, but when he gets that figured out, he'll be really good."

The Cubs acquired Butler from the Rockies on Feb. 1 for pitcher James Farris, hoping a change of scenery would help. Butler has a 6.50 ERA in 36 career big league games. So far, being with the Cubs has helped.

"It's the same stuff I've been working on," Butler said. "It's becoming more consistent, and it's allowing me to pitch really well. The consistency is coming around, and I'm having fun. It's a lot easier to play when you're having fun."

Maddon noted that 18 of Butler's first 22 pitches Thursday were strikes, and projected him as a third or fourth starter in a rotation.

"I like the fact that he's confident and went out there and did that," Maddon said. "It's all good stuff."

However, the Cubs do have six starters for five spots now, with Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery. Butler isn't deterred.

"I'm trying to make it as hard as possible, and going out there and keep putting together good outings and try to win that spot," Butler said.

Said Maddon: "He has high-end Major League starter stuff. It's up to him."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.