Q&A with St. Lucie Mets catcher Drew Butera

The 23-year-old St. Lucie Mets catcher enters 2007 with a firmer grasp of his position and the many requirements that come with it. Butera is off to a strong start with seven hits in his first 23 at-bats. Son of former Major Leaguer Sal Butera, Drew detailed many aspects of his own game and personal traits as he sat down with Inside Pitch Magazine on Sunday night for a Q&A session.

Inside Pitch: What did you think of your spring training performance? How would you rate yourself?

Drew Butera: I enjoyed camp this year. I enjoyed seeing the guys I played with last year. I learned a lot from the veterans in camp, especially Mike DiFelice. I talked to him everyday. We worked on how to control a pitching staff, the different personalities and how to call a game and situation pitching. It was a great learning experience. My offense was stable but the strides I made behind the plate really made this camp a success.

Inside Pitch: You spent the winter playing in the Hawaiian League. Tell us what that was like.

Butera: It was a different experience. I loved every minute of it. I feel very privileged to have played there. The league was gone for 10 ten years, and in its first year back to have the Mets send me there was terrific. I learned a lot about the pitching across the minor leagues. I got a jumpstart on many pitchers and especially better competition. Many of the guys out there were High-A, Double-A, so I got a taste of what I will be facing this year and down the road.

Inside Pitch: Previously, you commented on fatigue you suffered with last summer. Describe your offseason condition which addressed the problem.

Butera: Obviously, I put a lot of emphasis and focus on my legs. As a catcher, you find out early and half way through the season, that your legs are going to feel more tired as the games and season goes on. I worked on adding a lot of strength and especially endurance. I did a lot of running and lifting. I worked closely with a catching coordinator. This is also where DiFelice came in. I talked a lot with him about conditioning and what it takes to survive the long season. I also worked with our strength coach about what would be best to endure the season.

Inside Pitch: You struggled at the plate last year. What did you tweak in your game? Is there any part of your swing that changed?

Butera: I don't think my swing changed but my approach is definitely different. I'm starting to learn how to use the whole field. Last year I had a tough time, but it's because I wanted to pull the ball. I was so excited to play I just hacked away and wanted to hit the ball. I think now I'm more patient and I'm learning to hit my pitch and looking for my pitch. Getting to know the pitcher is big too. I'm facing a lot of guys this year that I faced last year. I think I've matured as a hitter, especially my approach.

Inside Pitch: Are there any specific pitches, counts or situations that are problematic?

Butera: Obviously, if the guy has a real good breaking ball I could have trouble, but I haven't see too many of those guys yet. I wouldn't say there is a specific situation that gives me trouble. Basically, I get myself into trouble by swinging at bad pitches or getting out of my mindset.

Inside Pitch: You are off to a fine start this season. What do you attribute it to?

Butera: Hard work. I've worked hard with Coach Cacciatore and stayed within my routine. Everyday I go out and do my tee and soft toss work. I make sure I do that everyday. Some guys are blessed with the ability to hit the baseball right when they get out of bed. But I'm a guy who has to do his routine and stay fresh. That's very important to me.

Inside Pitch: What exactly has progressed and improved in your defense?

Butera: There is always more room for physical improvements behind the plate; nobody's perfect when it comes to physical aspects of the game. But the thing I'm most impressed with myself is calling the game. I have pitchers now, that I had last year. I've got a great feel for them as well as the game. I haven't been catching that for that long and it takes a while for catchers to learn the ins and outs of the position, specifically managing the pitching staff. I think from last year to this year, my ability to call a game has made a huge difference.

Inside Pitch: Give us some initial thoughts and analysis of the St. Lucie leaders on the mound.

Butera: I'm really excited about being able to catch these guys. They are young and talented and they each bring something different to their performances. Deolis Guerra has an electrifying changeup, Jonathan Niese has a Major League curveball and Parnell has a Major League fastball and slider. They all have something extraordinary to bring to the table. They all have great calmness and confidence about themselves when they are on the mound. They all look in control and very relaxed when they are pitching, even in the worst situations.

Inside Pitch: Your dad was a big league catcher. As a second generation player, what did you learn from him?

Butera: My dad was very influential in my life as far as baseball goes. Everything that has taken place in my life he's been there, my mom too. He takes credit for many things in the past. But my mom takes the credit for my strong arm as she was the one out there in the stadium playing catch with me. Just from being around the clubhouse with him, and being able to experience and hangout with big leaguers and minor leaguers, when he managed in the minors, it was very special to me. Being part of that and experiencing it first hand I think has helped me now, because when I got to big league camp I wasn't overwhelmed.

Inside Pitch: What do you expect out of yourself this season?

Butera: I would love to get better everyday. In the game, I always strive improve everyday and that's goal from the day I break camp and even in the winter.

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