DENVER -- Down but not out -- dejected but still determined -- Colorado Rockies rookie pitcher Eddie Butler stood at his locker unwilling to make excuses and focused on a single truth; he needs to attack the strike-zone more.
He was a bit under the weather figuratively -- and the team has been under gloomy weather literally more days than not this season -- but neither was a valid excuse for Butler.
He insisted his bug was not a factor and even added, "I like the cold weather. Plus, you'd think we'd be used to it by now."
Instead, it was a costly first-inning throwing error and a lack of sharpness leading to an elevated pitch count that limited Butler's start to three innings. He did not take an at-bat in the game.
"Like six innings in two starts?" Butler regretted, "and it's killing our bullpen. When you get behind it doesn't matter what [else] you are doing, you can't be successful that way. Gotta be in the zone more."
His manager is in lock-step on this -- so at least we have identified the problem.
"He hasn't been able to reel it in," said Walt Weiss. "The command is the biggest thing. I think that is what has been different the last couple times out. He's a young pitcher, there are challenges for young pitchers in this league and he's going through some of that right now."
Lost in the chaos a bit is the fact that much of Wednesday's ugliness might have been avoided if not for a key error from Butler in the first half-inning of the game.
After securing two quick outs, Butler gave up back-to-back singles to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard but then got a weak grounder from Maikel Franco that he needed to field himself. He made a beautiful bare-hand stop then planted and threw to first but an unfortunate skip off the lip of the grass combined with a poor dig attempt from Wilin Rosario led to a passed ball you might have expected from 2014 and the first (unearned) run of the game.
In an instant, a harmless inning turned into the turning point of the game.
"I didn't get my head around to see where he was. I didn't want to airmail it, I figured bouncing it was a better option but I went back and looked at the video and I clearly had a lot of time, I could have set myself and made a good throw."
Those are the kinds of things young pitcher simply learn with time.
Jeff Francoeur singled in Howard to plate the second run, neither of which would have scored if one out of somewhere in the neighborhood four things had gone slightly more normally on that one play.
"As crazy as it sounds in the first inning, but yeah, it was a pivotal play. The inning got away after that, it was a big play."
A third inning that would see a deep home run from Howard would chase Butler from the game. "That ball just needs to be a couple inches further down," said Butler of the pitch he threw to Howard.
(Writers note: At this point I would usually talk about the offense but they refuse to be original. Just replay the tape from any game in the past week. Moments of spark and excitement are few and far between, when one guy finally gets going two more cool off, outs on the bases are just to be expected and despite hitting the ball hard with some regularity none of it seems to come when it matters most. Oh, and Troy Tulowitzki has been awful since all the trade rumors began to percolate.)
Regardless of specific results, Weiss doesn't want Butler backing off. He sees this more as the natural growing pains of a young pitcher, suggesting instead that better results will come with added experience and confidence; two sides to the same coin.
"There are times in his last start where he overthrew but I didn't necessarily see that tonight. Confidence and trusting his bread-and-butter which is his power sinker."
Confidence is something Eddie Butler doesn't have right this second, so he is going to need to start with trust. He has to trust what got him to this point. All MLB pitchers face this early in their careers. What Butler has done to this point will not be the story of his 2015, how he responds will.