SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As he threw his first bullpen session for the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday, Zack Greinke was surrounded by coaches, fans and media watching the team’s biggest acquisition in the offseason.
But one face was quite familiar with Greinke: new D-backs pitching coach Mike Butcher.
Butcher, hired by the D-backs last October, spent a few months with Greinke after he was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Los Angeles Angels in July 2012. Butcher is looking forward to working with the 2015 NL Cy Young runner-up, who went 6-2 with a 3.53 earned run average in 13 starts with the Angels.
“Obviously, he is a tremendous talent,” Butcher said. “I think it’s beneficial for me that I have a little background with him. I am just looking to have him be himself and not anything more than that.”
After nine successful years with the Angels, Butcher moved from the American League West to the National League West and, so far, the transition has been “seamless.” The 14-year former player is excited to have one pitching consultant on staff who has helped him succeed as a coach.
“In the short period time where I have known Dave Duncan, he has had a nice hand in how I teach,” he said. “I tried to pick his brain as a young coach in the big leagues.”
Butcher spoke about one conversation in 2007 when the Angels traveled to face the St. Louis Cardinals, where Duncan was the pitching coach at the time.
“He was gracious enough to come out there and talk to me because I wanted to talk to him. He came out to the left field pen and we had a nice conversation and I learned a lot from him.”
Butcher brings a strong résumé to the D-backs. The Angels set a franchise record with 1,342 strikeouts in 2014, breaking the previous record of 1,200 set the year before. The Halos’ starting pitchers had seven straight seasons of finishing in the top five in team earned run average. The Angels led the American League with a 3.57 staff ERA in 2011.
Butcher will take over a staff that was 16th in the MLB last year with a 4.04 ERA.
“We’re going to go out there and execute pitches. We’re going to do what we do. You know our game plan will be to pitch to our strengths and when guys pitch to their strengths, they’ll control counts better, they get ahead in counts, they’ll get back in counts and put guys away.”
As he gets ready for his first full season in the big leagues, Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley is looking forward to learning from Butcher.
“He reached out to me very early,” Bradley said. “It’s been a good transition so far. I am excited to work with him.”
While starting pitchers get days off after they pitch, Butcher doesn’t get that luxury.
“I am in it with every pitch. As a coach, you don’t take a pitch off and there is a lot of preparation that is involved in that.”