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Angels' Mike Butcher is under fire but not retreating

Pitching coach is getting a lot of heat for continuing subpar performance of the team's staff but defends his work and efforts to try to resolve the issues.

August 21, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna

BOSTON — Mike Butcher is under fire for the first time in six years as pitching coach, the Angels struggling to the point where many fans are calling for Butcher to be dumped the way hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was in May.

Butcher, whose staffs have excelled for most of his tenure in Anaheim, hasn't retreated into a corner and gone into a rope-a-dope. Asked about the criticism before Tuesday night's game at Fenway Park, Butcher came out swinging.

"I'm not going to defend my job, because I know how good I am," he said. "I know what I bring to the table every day. I know I get these guys prepared. They work every day. Nothing is going to change the way I go about preparing the guys.

"I'm always looking to improve, but as far as worrying about myself? I'm not. These last few weeks have been rough. We're not pitching to our capabilities. Obviously, it shows. It's never been about me when things are going good. When things go bad, you take it personal."

The team earned-run average has jumped for three straight months, from 2.99 in May to 3.66 in June to 4.52 in July to a major league-worst 6.76 in August before Tuesday.

A rotation thought to be the best in baseball has been awful in August, going 3-7 with a 6.53 ERA in 18 games through Sunday. The bullpen had a 6.07 ERA in 36 games since the All-Star break.

"It's really about commanding counts, getting ahead, controlling counts, knowing how to get ahead of a hitter, how to get back into counts, how to finish a guy off, and understanding your own strengths," Butcher said.

"We have scouting reports; they're blueprints on what a guy generally does. If that doesn't match up to your stuff, you pitch to your strengths. We've done that for years and pitched well. Occasionally, we'll have a bump in the road."

C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke said after shoddy starts against Tampa Bay over the weekend that they were trying to do too much. Butcher said many of his pitchers, especially the starters, have been pressing.

"When things are going good, it makes you want to one-up the other guy — you throw a shutout, I want to throw a shutout," Butcher said. "When things aren't going so well, you want to be the guy to stop it: 'I'm gonna stop the bleeding right here, I'm putting this game on my shoulders, you guys jump on, and it's over.'

"Those are high, high expectations. Guys just need to do what they do best. Pitch free and easy and be fearless about everything you throw. Understand what you do best, pitch to your strengths, and don't try to carry the weight of the club on that one pitch, that one out."

Manager Mike Scioscia, who is taking a fair amount of heat as well, believes Butcher is part of the solution, not the problem.

"Mike has a great feel for pitching, for the game, for knowing when to step in and when to stay out," Scioscia said. "He's working very hard to find solutions, and his input is important to us."

Century mark

Mike Trout began his 100th game of the season Tuesday with 137 hits and 96 runs. Only one player, Joe DiMaggio with 100 in 1936, had more runs in the first 100 games of his rookie season, and four — DiMaggio (153), St. Louis' Wally Moon (145 in 1954), Minnesota's Tony Oliva (144 in 1964) and Cleveland's Hal Trosky (140 in 1934) — had more hits in their first 100 games as rookies.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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