Keith Butler on opening day and challenges

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Keith Butler is enjoying his first home opener while knowing he must perform.

While many of his St. Louis Cardinals teammates were scattered about the clubhouse area and beyond late Monday morning, right-handed reliever Keith Butler sat a bit longer than the others at his stall, taking it all in.

Who could blame him? The 25-year-old had appeared in his first 16 major league games last season but 2014 has marked his first opening day as a major leaguer. Monday had even greater significance as the home opener.

The club's opening day roster of 25 players features 19 players drafted and developed within the Cardinals system. Including Butler, nine of the 25 are experiencing their first opener wearing the Birds on the Bat. Three are veterans from other clubs – Pat Neshek, Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos.

Five of the six home-grown first-timers are pitchers – starter Michael Wacha, and relievers Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Butler. That makes five of the seven relievers experiencing their first home opener as a Cardinal. The other is second baseman Kolten Wong.

Of this group - in fact among all Cardinals - Butler was the seemingly the last to secure his job. An uneven spring kept competition open with Jorge Rondon and non-roster hurler Scott McGregor. Butler's chances seemed doomed when David Aardsma was signed late in camp, but the veteran proved to not be ready.

Despite his spring ERA of 8.38, Butler departed Memphis with St. Louis, a coveted roster spot in hand. Perhaps it was as much a reflection that Butler had survived than he had seized the job.

After his initial 2014 regular season appearance led to five earned runs in one inning, Butler acknowledged the same reality he faced in Florida. There is on-going pressure to perform while the need remains to focus on today, rather than the past. The right-hander learned the latter while saving 62 games as a minor leaguer.

In the following interview, Butler describes what opening day means to him and discusses the ongoing challenge to execute well and continue to justify holding his roster spot. He is certainly taking nothing for granted.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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