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Rockies RHP Eddie Butler still struggling with two strike counts, putting away hitters

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The Colorado Rockies' pitching prospect knows he needs to finish at-bats and innings; this spring, it continues to be a challenge.

Scottsdale, Ariz. -- The last time I spoke with Eddie Butler, he was refreshingly optimistic and open to his demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque. He was equal parts business, though, and seemed to understand what he needed to do in the Pacific Coast League to succeed and eventually work his way back onto the big league radar.

"They had me come down to work on a couple things," he said at the time. "Finishing off guys, innings, things like not giving up two strike hits, or two out hits. That was a big concern they had, so I'm just working on that."

"I just gotta finish it," he added, shrugging, when I wondered about more specifics. "There's been too many pitches in the zone, especially with two strikes. I’ve even seen it since I’ve been down here. The last time I had an outing I gave up hits with two strikes on a slider or two, and that’s what they are talking about, being able to put guys away. I need to make pitches when they count."

Now, after taking some video (above) of him pitching in one of the Rockies' intrasquad scrimmages late this week, I have a better in-person idea of what Butler means when he says he needs to finish hitters. The above video captures part of his outing, and it is of course only anecdotal, but it's particularly applicable after Butler and my interview from the previous week. That's because, of the 11 batters I saw Butler face, three of them reached base on two-strike hits and another did so on a walk after Butler got two strikes against him. That's not good.

Butler doesn't lack in stuff, velocity, or intensity out on the mound, so it's interesting that a two-strike approach would be a problem for him, but here we are with the righty set to open the season in New Mexico, and not Colorado. And yet while the scrimmage in the video above may be telling, it's not gospel; take it as a window into Butler's goals and shortcomings, rather than the hard-and-fast proof that he's not destined for Denver, or whatever the prevailing thought may be.

Nevertheless, we can be sure finishing hitters with two strikes—and finishing innings with two outs—will be a focus for Butler moving forward. A few good weeks or months of that, and he could quickly find himself back in the Rockies' good graces and back on a 25-man roster.

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