Orono native and Toronto Blue Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield said he has been making good progress while rehabilitating his foot after undergoing Achilles heel surgery.
But the Boston Red Sox certainly haven’t helped his recuperation after acquiring slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a trade with the San Diego Padres and speedy left fielder Carl Crawford, who signed a free-agent deal with them. Crawford starred for American League Eastern Division rivals Tampa Bay.
“I’m surprised. I didn’t expect anybody to hit on two guys like that in the same winter,” said Butterfield. “Kudos to the Red Sox for the work they put in. They look very good on paper right now. If you look at their lineup and the different combinations they can put out there, they’re a little scary.”
He said even if the New York Yankees sign free agent lefty Cliff Lee, he still considers the Red Sox the favorite to win the division.
“Everything points to the Red Sox being able to score a lot of runs. So even if their pitching does falter a little bit, they’re still going to be tough,” said Butterfield. “I love the makeup of their club. And these two guys are baseball players, not just specialists. They were leaders in their respective clubhouses.”
The Blue Jays played the Padres in interleague play this past season so Butterfield and the Blue Jays staff had to do a lot of video work to get an accurate assessment of the Padres’ players.
“Gonzalez is a tremendous hitter,” said Butterfield. “He’s definitely one of the top five hitters in baseball. And the thing that is most impressive is the way he can drive the ball to the opposite field. He’s tailor-made for Fenway Park.”
Over the last four seasons, the 28-year-old Gonazlez has averaged 34 homers and 105 runs batted in along with a .284 average while playing half of his games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Butterfield also said Gonazelz is an “outstanding defensive first baseman.”
The former University of Maine second baseman, who will begin his 27th season as a coach in pro ball next season, said Crawford is “one of the top players in all of baseball. He’s the best defensive left fielder around. It’s not just his ability to go and catch the ball, he can cut hits off in the gaps to turn potential doubles into long singles and keep the double play intact.
“Offensively, he can beat you with his legs and he has also developed his power. He’s an impact guy offensively and defensively and he’s somebody everybody in baseball would love to have,” said Butterfield.
The 29-year-old Crawford hit .307 last season with 19 homers to go with 90 RBIs and 47 stolen bases in 57 attempts. His 19 homers and 90 RBIs were career-highs. He also had 13 triples. He has had at least 46 stolen bases in seven of the last eight seasons.
Butterfield is looking forward to the season. Following his surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon and remove painful bone spurs from his heel, he spent a month on crutches and another month in a protective boot.
The boot came off on Saturday.
“It’s healing real well,” said Butterfield, who rehabs his foot near his home in Standish.
He was disappointed not to get the Blue Jays’ managerial job after Cito Gaston retired but he has been re-hired by new manager John Farrell and he said Farrell has made a “tremendous impression” on him. Farrell is the former Red Sox pitching coach.
The Blue Jays will certainly have their hands full being in the same division with the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Rays but Butterfield said, “it’s fun for me. It’s a great challenge. But different organizations have different ways to get things done and I like the direction of our club. Playing in this division will make it much more satisfying when we get it done.”