I realized, too late, that I should have put up a bit of a bio for Brian Butterfield in the first part of the interview. Let's do it now.
Brian's dad, Jack Butterfield coached university baseball and joined the Yankees as a scout in 1976. He moved up to VP of scouting and player development. Brian was an infielder in the Yankee's minor league system. He worked as an instructor in the Yankee's system, then coached and managed some of the Yankee minor league teams.o the Yankees as a manger the minors for them. He made it so the majors as a coach with the Yankees in 1994. From there he went to the Diamondback and was third base coach there from 1998 to 2000. He went back to the Yankees in 2002, managing the Tampa Yankees.
He joined the Blue Jays in 2003. He has always worked with the infielders and has helped players like Orlando Hudson and Aaron Hill. In 2009 he was Cito's bench coach, this year he moved back to third base.
Again Hugo helped with the questions, including the 'best question' he had heard 'in a year'.
Cito doesn't get a lot of love from the blogs. What do you think he does well?
I think he definitely brings a great deal of wisdom, a great deal of experience. He's experienced an awful lot. He's seen the highs and the lows, he's been the last man standing on the top of that podium for two years and that's something that a lot of us, in this game, can't say. So just that in itself is a great honor for him. When he speaks everyone in that clubhouse listens, all the coaches and all the players. There is a lot in the game that he's done as a player and there is a lot that he has certainly done as a manager that we all respect. So he gets that respect from that club. He's been through an awful lot.
How important is Lyle Overbay's defense in making the other infielders look good?
That's the greatest question I've hear in a year, I'm so glad you asked that and I've talked about it a lot. I think that it's off the charts how important he is. Just talking to other infielders around the league throughout the years they talk about the importance of that guy who can really stretch and pick ball and adjust on the bag to handle errant throws. They give those infielders a great deal of confidence just to catch it and let it fly but if there is a guy over there that is a little stiff and doesn't have range with the glove, doesn't pick balls very well or move around the bag very well, infielders get tentative on their throws. Just his ability alone allows the infielders to turn it loose and he's just, I'm biased, but I think he's absolutely the best in the game at picking throws. He's absolutely the best at throwing. I don't think there is anyone in baseball that can match up with him, throwing wise. And to me, one of the things that separates the real solid first basemen from the great ones is their ability to throw and throw fearlessly to get a big lead out, late in the game. So he brings an awful lot and it's due to his hard work. I mean he has worked his ass off to become a well above average first baseman. He really has, it is a testament to him.
I wanted to ask you about Edwin Encarnacion, even though he is gone. (Well, he was when I asked this) Last year it looked like his footwork wasn't right but this year his feet look better but he's not getting the results. Do you think he can be a good major league third baseman?
I do. He's got real soft hands. He's a great big guy so his range isn't as good as some of the other guys, so he's going to be what he is. He is going to get to balls that he can get to and when he gets to it, he's got good hands where he is going to catch just about anything that is hit down there. And you are right, his footwork became a lot better this year. I think that helped him especially the last two weeks, I think his footwork was real good, where he was really feeling from his belt down, really using his legs, which helped his throwing accuracy. The one throw that he had the other day was a ball that was right over the base where he had to kind of catch it and he had to kind of throw it flatfooted. And that's usually where he gets trouble. I mean he really had to unload it right there, but that's one of the things whenever he had a dead lower half is where his ball would sail up the home plate side or right field side. So he was making strides without a doubt, he's making strides. I think he's going to a solid defender in this league.
I wanted to ask about a couple of players you saw this spring. Brad Emaus, what position do you see him at in the long run?
Another good question. You know, we talked about that. I really like him at second base because the year before, this past year, he worked almost exclusively at second. I like the way he made his double play pivot, I like the way he started the double play. He's another big strong guy that doesn't have as much range as some of the other guys but he has trustworthy hands, he can unload the ball quickly. So I like him around second. With his bat, the way he swung the bat for him in spring training, you almost look at him as a guy that can put up some offensive numbers for us at 2B. You almost look at him like a Jeff Kent type. He may not have great range to take away many hits but he'll supply that offense for you. Word is that he has played very well at third base and he is getting better. I think he's a guy that could swing the bat. I think he could help you want ever your need is at second and third. I really can't give you an answer, I haven't seen him enough in the regular season. You like to see a guy a little bit more often before you make a judgment on him.
Brett Wallace, how is he doing at first base, how long will it take him to learn the position?
Another solid question, we've been talking about it a lot. I've been in touch with Dan Rohn our Triple A manager and he says he's really made great strides defensively at first base. I didn't get a chance to see enough of him in spring training and it was funny because here he is he's traded to his third club, in I don't know how many months. So he's trying to get adjusted, and there is talk about him going to the big leagues. There was a lot of stuff swirling around Brett Wallace this spring training. We tried to get some work done on the back field at first base, he was getting better. But I think the most improvement came when we said let's send him down to the minor league facility and where he can relax a little bit more and really get isolated with the infield instructors and just allow him a quiet environment to keep getting better. I think that's when he made bigger strides was during that time. Danny's been real pleased with his defensive progress during the year in Vegas. So far so good.