BOSTON — A manager isn’t supposed to root for certain players over others — that’s sort of be like having a favorite child — but manager John Farrell can’t help but feel a soft spot for backup catcher Dan Butler.
“He’s always had a strong reputation of handling pitchers and for his game-calling,” Farrell said. “In some ways, it’s a real success story when you factor in, he’s been a non-drafted free agent, signed out of the Cape Cod league, was a backup catcher in college, and with all of his work, it’s paid off to realize a major-league opportunity.”
The downside of Butler’s arrival to the Red Sox on Saturday was that it was necessitated by David Ross experiencing another flare-up with his plantar fasciitis. Ross came up limping while attempting to run out a grounder in the sixth inning Friday and was removed from the game in favor of Christian Vazquez.
Ross was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday, with Vazquez slated to start behind the plate against the New York Yankees.
“Everything points toward that tendon letting go (Friday), which in this case is a positive,” Farrell said. “How many days it takes to recover, we’ll see, but the 15 days should, hopefully, help that quiet down to the point of him returning.”
In the meantime, Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves will be more involved in a battery that will now be heavy on both young starting pitchers and young catchers. That could mean more frequent mound visits or more between-innings powwows to review the first three batters due up. Ross should also lend his voice to those meetings.
“Even though he’ll be inactive, he’ll be a guy I know both Butler and Vazqui look up to and will tap into that experience,” Farrell said.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Butler is a far cry from the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Ross physically, but he is similar in the way he quietly instills confidence in a pitching staff. Red Sox hurlers have come to respect Butler through his work in spring training the last several years, and his experience with so many pitching prospects in the minor leagues should be valuable now that many of those same pitchers are with the big club.
“When you come through the path he has, not being drafted, maybe he has had to earn things a little bit more because he hasn’t had the pedigree coming out of the draft or a large investment in him,” Farrell said. “The fact that he’s withstood the durability test, the in-game game-calling test, it’s a testament to a guy that is a product of a development system.
“Certainly, there’s ability there. There’s physical ability, there’s talent, but to achieve what he has where he’s come from, it’s a heck of a story.”