A Long Season For Drew Butera

Butera is hitting .140 since July 1st

Drew Butera, known more for his defensive prowess behind the plate, has struggled offensively in 2006. The 2005 fifth round pick out of the University of Central Florida has finished his first taste of the long-season leagues under the dreaded Mendoza line but says he looks at his first full year in the pros as more of a learning experience.

"It's had its ups and downs," Drew Butera said of his 2006 season. "I've struggled a little bit offensively trying to find myself and get my feet wet. But it's been a great learning experience for me. I've learned a lot about myself. I got to mature mentally and physically. I've enjoyed it."

After hitting .194 in his first 36 games with the Hagerstown Suns, Butera appeared to have turned a corner when he batted .286 with twice as many home runs and nearly as many runs batted in through 18 games in June. However, hitting just .140 since that time, Butera chooses to look at his whole season as one big learning experience.

"How to pace myself," he listed as the biggest lesson he's learned thus far. "It's a long season and I've learned not to go extra-hard every day, cut down on my swings day by day, and just try to save energy for the game. I learned not to go all out during fielding and batting practice and save my arm strength and my energy for the game."

One of the areas Butera will be looking to improve this offseason will be gaining strength in preparation for the 2007 season, possibly in the heat of the Florida State League. After losing somewhere between five and ten pounds this season, he is looking to avoid the same mistake next year.

"My strength," Butera listed as his top priority heading into the offseason. "I've lost muscle weight and strength. It's a long season and I'm feeling the effects of a long season. I'm getting a little tired, a little banged up, and that's something I really want to work on in the offseason. I want to come into Spring Training real strong and ready for the long season."

One of his other focuses heading into the offseason is continuing to drive the ball to the opposite field more.

"Going the other way," he listed as his main focus offensively. "I feel that when I'm at my best I'm hitting the ball to all fields, especially to right field. Staying back, stay behind the ball, and when I'm struggling, I hit the ball out in front of me and hit it to left field. When I'm at my best I try to hit the bal to right field. That's what we've been working on this year."

But while he continues to improve his hitting ability, he also realizes that his ticket to the big leagues will be his defensive ability behind the plate and he will never stop working on that side of the ball.

"Everything can be improved on, that's what I'm trying to do," he said of his defensive game. "I'm trying to get quicker with my feet. My arm strength is always there but I can always improve on it."

"My game calling is what I try to work on and what I take pride in, in running a pitching staff. We've had a lot of young pitchers with Niese and Guerra and that's something that I've taken pride in this year. I'm trying to get them better through their long innings."

Continuing to develop his offensive game and hone his overall defensive skills, Butera has made some strides that are not easily discernable from the box scores and he chooses to focus on the positives.

"Probably throwing out runners and receiving," he listed as areas he believes he has improved upon this year. "I was blessed with a good arm and quick feet. I'd say that's the best part of my game right now."

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