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OC Register: Angels’ Ty Buttrey looks to take next step after impressive breakthrough in 2018


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TEMPE, Ariz. — It was a different kind of winter for Ty Buttrey.

Aside from dealing with the snow and cold in Connecticut, as opposed to the typically mild winters in North Carolina, and aside from adjusting to life with contacts, he spent his winter as a major leaguer.

Instead of simply dreaming about reaching the big leagues, Buttrey spent this winter knowing he had been successful in the majors.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I think having the experience I had last year and doing what I did, it’s by no means a benchmark for however many years guys play this game, but it gives me confidence that I can come in this year and perform at the highest level. I’m just trying to continue to do what I was doing last year, but improving other aspects. Just fine tuning to get the best out of what I can do.”

Buttrey, who will be 26 next month, came to the Angels last year in the Ian Kinsler trade to the Boston Red Sox on July 30. By the end of the season, he was getting chances as the Angels closer, a meteoric rise punctuated one night in Houston.

On Aug. 31, Buttrey got in and out of a bases-loaded jam to protect a 3-0 lead in a raucous Minute Maid Park. Hitting 99.9 mph with his fastball, Buttrey struck out George Springer and José Altuve and got Carlos Correa on a popup to end the inning.

Over the winter, that game was never far from his mind.

“I think that was a big game for me,” Buttrey said. “It allowed me to grow my confidence. I was in that situation with the fans screaming, the dome closed. It was electric in that stadium. Getting some of the best hitters in baseball out was a very cool experience. I basically was able to solidify I have the stuff to get out the best hitters. If I can do that once, I should be able to do that 50 other times, 100 other times later in my career.”

Buttrey posted a 3.31 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 16-1/3 major league innings last year.

Now, the Angels have added experienced closer Cody Allen to pitch the ninth inning, but they have Buttrey on the short list of pitchers who they expect to help them get the ball to Allen.

“We don’t know the pieces the bullpen yet, but he certainly has the type of stuff to get crucial outs,” Manager Brad Ausmus said.

In just a few weeks together in spring training, Allen has helped guide Buttrey toward reaching his potential.

“He’s a talented kid,” said Allen, a 30-year-old veteran of seven major league seasons. “It seems like he catches on pretty quick. All he needs is experience, and that will come quickly. I think he’s got a great arm. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.”

Buttrey is 6-foot-6 and throws an overpowering fastball, along with a slider and a changeup.

“He’s an intimidating person on the mound,” Ausmus said.

In order to take the next step, however, Buttrey had to address a few issues.

Buttrey realized late last season that he was having trouble picking up the catcher’s signs, especially at night. Over the winter he learned he had astigmatism, so he got contacts, which have proven to be quite a challenge.

“Contacts are probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “Trying to put them in my eyes is nearly impossible. Hopefully I can start doing it on my own and won’t have to have the trainer help me.”

Buttrey also needed to strengthen his core, so he had a trainer set him up with an program over the winter. He and his wife moved from North Carolina to Connecticut for her job, so he spent much of the frigid winter in a gym retooling his body.

“That was the biggest thing in the past I didn’t realize, that I had a weaker core,” Buttrey said. “My trainer wrote me a program that’s getting my body aligned right, getting everything in position and functioning the way it should be.”

The new routine helped position Buttrey to take the next step from his impressive big league debut in 2018.

Although he said he “definitely 100 percent could” be a closer, for now  he’s focused on doing all the little things to prepare to pitch at his best and to get the ball to Allen.

“My goals are based on the process,” Buttrey said. “I don’t set goals of wanting a sub-2.00 ERA or wanting this amount of strikeouts. You can’t do that. It’s coming in every day with a true professionalism to get my work in, to do all the little corrective stuff we do. If I stay on top of that every day, going out and getting in quality throws when I’m playing catch, if I achieve those things daily, I know the result is going to be very good.”


Kaleb Cowart, who the Angels brought back via a waiver claim, is scheduled to be in camp on Monday. General manager Billy Eppler said the Angels will have Cowart focus primarily on pitching this spring, although he’ll still get some time as a position player. The Angels began exploring Cowart’s future as a pitcher before he was lost on waivers in December. …

Matt Harvey said he felt good a day after his second bullpen session since being shut down with a strained glute. Harvey said he’s expecting to have one or two sessions throwing to hitters in batting practice and then be ready for a Cactus League game. …

Justin Bour has not played any of the Angels first three Cactus League games because he had a mild hamstring issue just before camp, Ausmus said. “We’re taking it easy with him,” Ausmus said. “He’s taking ground balls and hitting, but in terms of games it will be a little longer.” …

Michael Hermosillo will not be ready for a game for a few more days because he was dealing with some scar tissue left from his offseason hernia surgery, he said.

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