Sept. 17, 2010
by Sean Ray, Auburn Media Relations
Brett Butts made a rapid ascension up the Atlanta Braves minor league system after spending two years on the Auburn pitching staff. Drafted in 2007, he racked up 117 appearances and 19 saves over four minor league seasons before an injury derailed his 201 campaign.
Butts started his collegiate career at Darton Junior College where he was the 2005 Georgia Junior College Athletic Association Freshman Pitcher of the Year. In his first year on the Plains, Butts, a right-handed pitchers from Sharpsburg, Ga., made 15 appearances (13 starts), finishing 2006 second on the team in innings pitched (64.2) and strikeouts (42).
"The first year I was at Auburn it was long and I struggled a little bit," said Butts, who went 3-6 with a 6.40 ERA. "The next year came along and some things started going my way."
The second year was very different for Butts, who instead of being called upon as a starter was moved into the bullpen where he led the team in appearances (26) and saves (six), going 2-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 54 innings of work.
Following his junior season, Butts was drafted in the 19th round by the Braves and he has been steadily moving up in the organization ever since. In his first professional season he split time between rookie-level Danville (Virginia), Class-A Rome (Georgia) and Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach (South Carolina)
"I ended up going to Danville and played there for only about three weeks or so," said Butts. "Then I got called up, went to Rome and played probably about a month there. Then I finished up the season in Myrtle Beach. I actually was back in Auburn to go to a football game that offseason and I got a call to dress out for the Double-A team (Mississippi Braves) in Montgomery because they were in the playoffs."
Butts finished his first year of pro ball with a combined 3-2 record and a 2.61 ERA in 41 1/3 innings, picking up one save.
He spent 2008, his first full season in the minors, at Myrtle Beach, finishing tied for second on the staff with 10 saves and picking up three wins with a 4.16 ERA.
"I thought it was a pretty good year for my first full year," said Butts, whose 36 appearances were second-most on the team. "The season was pretty long and once August got there, I felt like I hit a wall because that was the first time I had played 140 games in a year. A few of my saves were three-inning saves and it was just long and my August showed it. Other than that, I thought it was a pretty good year and it got me a move up for the next year."
In 2009, Butts was promoted again, this time to a full-time spot with the M-Braves. Pitching strictly in relief, he went 7-3 with a 2.58 ERA in a team-best 53 games and also recorded five saves.
"That year started off a little rough," said Butts. "I ended up learning how to pitch a little more after dealing with my pitching coach, Marty Reed. We started doing side sessions every other day and I started seeing progress right after the All-Star break. Everything started clicking in the right place and I started feeling really good on the mound. I tried to carry that over into every game and keep it the same way. I kept throwing those sides and next thing you know it turned into a pretty good little streak at the end of the season."
His 2010 season began right where he left off in 2009 by posting a sparkling 1.52 ERA through 23 2/3 innings in 15 games. Unfortunately for Butts, he had Tommy John surgery on July 9 to repair a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow. Dr. James Andrews, who is also the orthopaedic surgeon for the Auburn baseball team, performed the procedure at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Pensacola, Fla.
"The season started off pretty good and I tried to carry it over from the season before," said Butts. "Things were going well until about May 30th. We were in Mobile and I felt some tightness in my forearm. I was like, `who knows? It's probably just a strained forearm or maybe it's just tender.' I kept throwing for the next four days and it didn't really bother me at all. The next thing you know, I go throw an inning in a game and I'm back the dugout and it starts getting stiff. I went back out there and starting throwing my warm-up pitches and something didn't feel right. Then I tried throwing to a batter and that's when it happened. Something just felt like it was gone."
Having shared dugouts with big leaguers Tommy Hanson, Mike Hampton and Tom Glavine, among others, Butts has seen what it takes to make it to the next level and has already begun the process of rehabilitation to get himself back pitching in the Braves system for the 2011 campaign.