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Butcher seeks answers for starting staff

Butcher seeks answers for starting staff

MINNEAPOLIS -- Although it's early, and their track records suggest they will be better and pitch deeper, nobody is taking the Angels' starting pitching troubles lightly -- especially not pitching coach Mike Butcher.

"I live every pitch," Butcher said. "Every single pitch. You want to see the groundball double play, you want to see a punch out, you want to see guys have efficient innings, and right now we haven't really put any of that together."

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The Angels came into Wednesday's postponed game against the Twins with a 6.07 rotation ERA, which ranked last in the Majors and is perceived as the biggest reason they're 4-10 -- though hitting with runners in scoring position and bridging the gap to the late-inning relievers has also been a factor.

Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson, the three new additions, are a combined 1-6 with a 7.37 ERA. And only once in their first 14 games has a starting pitcher -- Garrett Richards -- taken the ball for the seventh inning.

"Obviously the stats speak for themselves," Butcher said. "I think the biggest thing is trying to keep these guys positive, more than anything else. That's the biggest thing -- stay positive, get focused, go out there and do what you're capable of doing."

Each starter has his own individual issues to iron out, but across the board, Butcher believes the staff is struggling to control counts and put hitters away. He referenced Tuesday night, when the Twins got 10 hits on two-strike counts, as a perfect example.

As for how he's handling the pressure of being a pitching coach for a struggling staff?

"I have zero stress, man -- none," Butcher said. "I come here, do my job, and I sleep like a baby at night. My family's good, I feel good. Do I want to see our guys play better? One-hundred percent. But as far as what I can do, I'm doing what I do. My job is to keep these guys focused, keep it positive, and that's what I'm doing.

"When we go out there, we need to make better pitches, we have to control counts, we have to stay aggressive. When you're pitching passive, when you're working behind, it's a little more difficult to get outs. But when you're on the attack, and you're controlling counts, it's a different ballgame."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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