Joey Butler is a 27-year old outfielder who hadn't been able to get out of Triple-A despite showing some pop and being a good teammate before getting the call Monday to help the Texas Rangers in a playoff race.
Butler is in his third season in Triple-A. Nelson Cruz, who was suspended for 50 games Monday, was stuck at that level for five years from 2004-08 before finally breaking through for 33 home runs for the Rangers in 2009.
Can the same happen for Butler, who is batting .291 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs for the Express?
"Nelson had a lot more talent than Joey had," Triple-A Round Rock Bobby Jones said on the phone from Sacramento on Monday. Jones was Cruz's manager at Oklahoma City for five years.
"Joey has to work on all parts of his game," Jones said. "He's done that work and thank God he got this opportunity. I love the kid. He has flaws. He chases pitches out of the strike zone. Maybe this will fire him up and he'll become a better player."
Butler's hitting coach at Round Rock, Scott Coolbaugh, said the Rangers have a player who potentially could be able to handle a platoon situation against left-handed pitching. Butler is batting .321 against lefties with a .532 slugging percentage.
"He's always been a kid that been better against left-handers than right," Coolbaugh said. "He becomes vulnerable to certain pitches from the right side. He's going to be able to handle himself against left-handed pitching. It's a matter of how much of an opportunity he's going to get it and what kind of start he gets off to."
Both Jones and Coolbaugh said Butler is a below average outfielder who can take bad routes, but will catch the ball if he gets to it. Sounds like the player Butler will help replace -- Cruz.
One thing is for sure, Jones said. Like Engel Beltre -- who was called back up after seeing some time with the Rangers this season -- Butler is a good teammate who will bring energy to the big league club.
"He's a good teammate," Jones said. "He's always upbeat and positive and has a smile on his face. He should bring a little life in there and liven things up. He's a good kid to have around."
Jones said he was disappointed to see Cruz admit to an "error in judgment" as the slugger put it Monday in a statement by violating Major League Baseball's drug program.
"It's a shame," Jones said. "I don't know the extent of it. He has always loved to play, worked hard and been a great teammate. I never thought he'd be involved in this."