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BASEBALL EXTRA | DODGER REPORT : NOTES

Butler Has Had Worse Days

May 08, 1997|BOB NIGHTENGALE

Dodger center fielder Brett Butler realizes that his baseball career might be over, but instead of being overcome with sadness, Butler is at peace with himself.

"It's not cancer," Butler said Wednesday, "that's the way I look at it. I can live with this. I'm not going to die from this."

Butler, who was hitting .356, has torn cartilage in his left shoulder. He will wait two weeks to see if his shoulder improves. If there is no improvement, Butler said that he will retire instead of undergoing surgery.

"He knows he has to do what's best for the team," said his wife, Eveline. "He's not going to keep going out there if he can't play the way he wants. He'll retire and come home.

"He proved that he could play the same way before he got sick. That's a real inspiration to people. They can now say, 'Hey, it that guy can come back, I can come back and overcome less than he did.'

"We're just thankful it's not cancer again. We can live with a torn muscle."

Butler's latest trouble came one year to the date when he was informed that he had cancer of the tonsils.

"I don't even want to step outside next year on that date," Butler said. "Who knows, maybe this is blessing. I have to believe this is the best April I've ever had [.360], and I've always stunk in May [career .253 average].

"Maybe in two weeks everything will be OK, but if not, I'll go home with no regrets.

"It's been a great ride."

*

The Dodgers, who protected themselves financially in case Butler was unable to play the entire season, will save nearly $1.2 million if he is unable to return.

Butler, who was eligible to earn a total of $2 million this season, is being paid a $500,000 base salary that is loaded with incentives. He earns $3,500 each day he's on the major-league roster up to $600,000; $1,000 for up to 500 plate appearances; and $3,333.33 for each game he starts up to 120 games.

Butler has earned $304,333.26 in incentives this season and likely will be paid his full $500,000 base salary even if he retires.

*

Outfielders Eddie Williams and Eric Anthony, who have played for 13 organizations between them, had difficulty believing they were together in the Dodger clubhouse.

Two days ago, they were in Calgary playing for the Dodgers' triple-A Albuquerque team, but within 24 hours, were called up.

"Would you look at me," Williams said, "I'm a Dodger now. It's a great feeling."

Said Anthony: "I was always envious of the guys who played for the Dodgers. This is the ultimate right here."

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