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Angels

Angels pitcher Ty Buttrey played badly in MLB virtual tournament, so he sought help

Angels pitcher Ty Buttrey delivers a pitch.
Angels pitcher Ty Buttrey debuted in MLB’s new video game tournament over the weekend with a 1-3 record; he went to his Instagram account to ask fans for help.
(Emilee Chinn / Getty Images)

Ty Buttrey is not one to dwell hopelessly on a weakness.

So after the Angels reliever debuted in MLB’s new video game tournament over the weekend with a 1-3 record, he went to his Instagram account to ask fans for help. He wanted to find a PlayStation guru, someone well-versed in The Show.

Someone so proficient at the MLB video-game franchise the player might as well be a virtual Mike Trout.

Relearning how to operate a Playstation 4 console after years of gaming almost exclusively on Xbox was challenging, Buttrey said in a conference call Tuesday. The controller’s domed shape — Xbox ones are indented — felt foreign. The joysticks were tougher to move.

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Buttrey had not played The Show, which has only been available on Playstation, in several years. The advancements in graphics and general gameplay also required some getting used to.

The MLB website will show a highlight video of the 1955 World Series on Wednesday featuring Jackie Robinson and other Dodgers ‘Boys of Summer’ greats.

Two weeks of practice at the most difficult game setting helped, but not enough. Buttrey was outscored 14-7 in his four three-inning games Saturday. He struggled to hit inside pitches and display patience at the plate, just as he had growing up.

“I never walked,” he said. “I wanted to hit everything.”

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Buttrey craved an edge in an online tournament full of major leaguers who have played The Show fanatically, such as 2018 Cy Young Award winner and noted video-game streamer Blake Snell.

“We got nothing going on,” Buttrey said. “Even though this is kind of a joke and a video game, I take pride in myself. I want to win this and I know that my skill level is just sub-par. It’s just not going to get it done, especially with like what Joey Gallo [who entered Tuesday 4-0] is doing over there in Texas.

“What would I do if I was training for baseball or training in the gym? I would find the best trainer, I would find the best pitching coach, the best person to help me.”

Cue Ryan Wilcox, an Angels fan who plays as McGunski and has 20,275 followers on the streaming site Twitch.

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Buttrey streamed an hourlong practice with Wilcox on YouTube Monday. They talked about setup improvements. A nicer monitor would help Buttrey better identify pitches. A new controller would make a difference too.

The tip Buttrey hopes will stick does not require a shopping spree.

“He said, ‘Ty, you have to think this like hitting,’” Buttrey said. “It’s literally timing up the hitting. As he’s going through, he’s thinking about clicks in his head. As the hands separate, that’s a click. As a pitcher lifts up his leg, that’s another click. As the pitcher is dropping his leg and his front foot hits, that’s your third click.

“And then you slowly want to start moving your analog stick. It gets you in your rhythm and then you just react. You react off there versus sitting how I was. I was up in the top corner slamming down the controller. It was crazy the things I learned last night.”

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Buttrey has taken his real-life career even more seriously. The extensive downtime has afforded him a chance to revamp his regimen. Since MLB’s pandemic-induced shutdown began, he has relocated to Tampa, Fla., to work with a trainer and the trainer’s wife, who is a physical therapist. The sessions, which take place in the trainer’s home garage, quickly uncovered body alignment deficiencies.

The posture improvements — such as with his head tilt, the rounding forward of his shoulders, even the natural way he stands — paid off in a bullpen Monday. He felt more comfortable with his mechanics. He struggled to engage with his lower half while on the mound for several weeks in the middle of last season, resulting in a 5.93 ERA over his final 31 appearances. He finished 6-7 with a 3.98 ERA in 72 relief appearances.

Buttrey wasn’t alone in noticing the enhancements. A coach who watched video of the throwing session on Instagram complimented Buttrey on how his “hip is firing through so much better than what it used to be.”

Angels manager Joe Maddon recruited Albert Pujols, Carlos Peña and Tino Martinez to help stem the coronavirus crisis in his Pennsylvania hometown.
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“I’m just feeling more connected and like my body’s working with itself,” Buttrey said. “Sometimes I feel like my body kind of works against me when I’m trying to throw.”

Buttrey said he would like to return to playing baseball as soon as possible, with a caveat: He does not want anyone’s health jeopardized and he wants players to remain close to their families.

Until such a plan is possible, he’ll play out the video-game tournament and live out what is practically a second offseason — with less rest from throwing.

“We don’t know when the season is going to start,” Buttrey said. “So if it does start in a month, I want to be prepared. I don’t want to be coming in and getting hurt. I don’t want to be coming in and potentially losing my job to somebody that was working out hard.

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