Happy MLB Opening Day. I’ve already cried tears of joy and it’s only 1 p.m. Fans are used to #WeirdBaseball, but nothing like this. So much of what begins tonight and unfolds over the next three months will range from odd to unsettling to worrisome and all points in between. But with an unremitting hope that everyone stays healthy and safe, it’s just beautiful to have baseball back and — ahhh, the water works!
What are we talking about? Oh, right, UCF Knights. None of them are on the four teams playing this evening, but as every other MLB club finalized its roster of up to 30 players at noon today, three UCF alums made the cut while a fourth will be on call nearby if needed. Let’s run through them.
Drew Butera, catcher, Colorado Rockies (UCF: 2003-05)
Butera is entering what will be his 11th season in the majors, which is an honestly incredible feat for someone with a career slash line through more than 1,200 at-bats of .200/.257/.297. But Butera continues to stick around because of his skills and reliability behind the plate. Colorado manager Bud Black “loves how Butera handles the Rockies’ pitching staff,” according to the Denver Post. The Rockies are carrying three catchers on their 30-man, and Butera along with Elias Diaz will back up starter Tony Wolters.
Also, I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Butera unexpectedly crushed the ball in spring training and summer camp, slashing .375/.444/1.063 with three homers in just 16 at-bats. Small sample sizes absolutely rule.
#UCF250 continues! #20-11 of the Top 100 #UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time include:— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) July 15, 2020
and more! https://t.co/ASji5pS4PV
Dylan Moore, utility player, Seattle Mariners (UCF: 2014-15)
Moore grabbed one of the final spots on Seattle’s 30-man simply because he can play wherever, whenever. As a rookie in 2019, he saw time at every position except catcher. Yes, he pitched an inning. He’s best suited for somewhere on the left side of the diamond, be it third base, shortstop or left field, all of which he can defend proficiently. He has yet to provide much of note with the bat, but when you provide this kind of flexibility in the field, you have real value.
Dan Winkler, relief pitcher, Chicago Cubs (UCF: 2011)
Winkler signed with the Cubs in December and is looking to recapture what made him one of the game’s better setup men as recently as 2018 with the Atlanta Braves. Winkler owned a 2.34 earned run average around the halfway point of that season. Since then, he’s compiled a 4.94 ERA. He was dealt to the San Francisco Giants at the 2019 trade deadline and subsequently designated for assignment one day later. He will be part of the bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel in the Cubbies’ bullpen.
NEW PODCAST!@Jeff_Sharon, @Spokes_Murphy & @EricLopezELO discuss the @NCAA’s upcoming decision that may put all fall sports in trouble.— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) July 23, 2020
Plus @UCF_MSoccer legend Winston DuBose drops by, #UCF all-time Top 10 athletes, and @UCF_MBB scheduling Michigan! https://t.co/SAnY9AGiO4
Catcher Beau Taylor, who played at UCF from 2009-11, didn’t make the Cleveland Indians’ 30-man roster, but he is a part of their three-man taxi squad. Every team will carry a trio of extra players for all road games, and at least one of those three players has to be a catcher. That’s where Taylor fits in. If either of Cleveland’s two active catchers — Roberto Perez or Sandy Leon — gets injured or infected, Taylor will be there to step in immediately. The drawbacks for any taxi player are they won’t accrue service time and they won’t be paid a major league salary; they will earn their minor league salary plus an MLB daily allowance of $108.50. But hey, that’s gotta beat not travelling with the big club at all.
Every team’s 30-man roster will be pared down to 28 players two weeks from now and then 26 two weeks after that. Here’s to hoping this season stays on the tracks for the sake of not only these four men but all of us who have longed for Major League Baseball’s return.