Braves Righthander Brett Butts Getting Noticed





ATLANTA—Every organization has a player or two who seems to fly under the radar despite putting together consistent performances. Righthander Brett Butts falls into that category, although that trend could be on the verge of ending.

A 19th-round draft pick out of Auburn in 2007, Butts, 23, has put together three solid seasons in the minor leagues, including a stellar showing at Double-A Mississippi last year. In a team-high 53 outings, he went 7-3, 2.58, with 68 strikeouts and 63 hits in 73 innings. He had five saves in six opportunities while responding to nearly every challenge thrown his way.

"Until you saw him everyday, you probably wouldn't appreciate Brett Butts as much as you should," Mississippi pitching coach Marty Reed said. "There were times when we needed him to close and he did that. There were other times when we needed him to go two or three innings and he did that. He never really had a chance to settle down and get in a role, yet he pitched well regardless of what we needed him to do."

A native of the metro Atlanta area, Butts pitched with three different teams in 2007, ending up at high Class A Myrtle Beach. He returned to the Carolina League for the entire 2008 slate, with three of his 10 saves spanning three innings each.

"He's got a great changeup, one of the best I've seen in the organization," Reed said. "He throws it with great arm action and gets a ton of swing-and-misses with it. His fastball is deceiving. He doesn't look like he throws that hard, but he'll get it up there to 91 or 92. And when he has that changeup working, it's really tough to hit."

Butts' changeup is effective against both lefthanded and righthanded hitters, which adds to his value out of the bullpen. Reed believes Butts has the ability to fill multiple roles in a major league bullpen, an opportunity that could arrive at some point in 2010. The Braves have needed additional relief help on several occasions over the past few years and are expected to give Butts a handful of outings in spring training as a non-roster player with the big club.

Wigwam Wisps

• The Braves are loaded with homegrown pitching depth, particularly in the starting rotations for all four full-season clubs. At low Class A Rome, as many as 14 hurlers are expected to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring.

• Braves executive vice president of business operations Mike Plant is serving as the chef de mission for the U.S. Olympic team. The 50-year-old former speed skater is the Olympic team's chief troubleshooter and one of its main representatives in Vancouver.