tampabay.com

Butcher: No regrets on move here, back

By MARC TOPKIN
Published February 18, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Sitting in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday, Mike Butcher felt like he was home.

Butcher returned this spring to the Angels, taking over as pitching coach after Bud Black left to manage the Padres. Butcher spent only one year with the Rays, asking out of the second year of his contract and walking away from good friend Joe Maddon, who gave him his first major-league coaching job.

But three months later, he said it's clear he made the right move.

And that there was nothing wrong with what he did.

"I don't want to get into that," Butcher said. "It just was the right thing for me to do. When you know it's right, that's the bottom line. That's the way I have to look at it."

Butcher's wife and kids remained at their Arizona home during his year with the Rays, so moving back west was better for him personally. Professionally, it seemed a better fit too since he spent most of his playing and coaching career with the Angels and still has relationships with many of their pitchers.

"I feel like I'm at home for sure," he said.

Butcher said he still talks to Maddon and bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, and greatly liked some of the pitchers he had with the Rays, mentioning Scott Kazmir and James Shields most prominently. He'll follow them and wish them the best.

"There's a lot of talent there, and a lot of guys I felt made a lot of progress," Butcher said. "I'm sure they'll enjoy (new pitching coach) Jim Hickey. He's a good pitching coach. I expect they'll continue to grow and maximize their potential."

THE BLUE RAYS: A change in the color scheme on devilrays.com (to pantones 289 and 293) has fans talking blue about the new uniforms and logos planned for next season. But team president Matt Silverman said the speculation is misplaced, just as it was when long-ago planned additions of blue to the spring jerseys and caps were reported recently.

"It's unrelated to our uniform change," Silverman said. "I can say that with 100 percent certainly because it hasn't been decided."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays are reducing the capacity of the Trop to under 40,000 by putting tarps over the several rows of bleacher seats at the top of the upper deck, ostensibly for aesthetics. The tarps won't come off even if there are big crowds. ... The over/under betting line for wins this season is 67, according to the Las Vegas Hilton. ... The Rays are looking into lowering the height of the leftfield wall at the Trop, creating the possibility of more acrobatic, home-run stealing catches by LF Carl Crawford. ... The deal to acquire RHP Jae Kuk Ryu for two prospects doesn't look quite as good with the loss of RHP Marcos Carvajal, who was claimed by the Mets after being taken off the roster to make room for Ryu. ... The Korea Times says that with Ryu, Jae Seo and nonroster 1B Hee-Seop Choi in camp, the team "might consider renaming themselves the South Korean Devil Rays." ... Among new food items at the Trop this season: a signature hot dog. ... John Eliot, a performance-enhancement expert who has worked with pro and college teams, is working with the team. ... Kazmir will join hosts Andy Freed and Dave Wills at Ferg's sports bar near the Trop at 7 p.m. Monday for the Countdown to Opening Day radio show on 620-AM. ... Installation of the Trop's new FieldTurf Duofilament System will be completed Tuesday. It's supposed to be "far more resistant to foot traffic." ... The Rays are seeking batboys, age 18 and up; call (727) 825-3165.