Eddie Butler threw his 97 mph fastball for Radford University this spring.
But he wasn't pitching at RU Baseball Stadium on Thursday. He was at Miller Park, auditioning for the Milwaukee Brewers, who wanted a closer look at him before the major-league amateur draft.
The junior right-hander is expected to be chosen in one of the early rounds of the draft, which will be held today through Wednesday. Radford coach Joe Raccuia said he will be shocked if Butler is not taken tonight, when the first 60 players will be selected.
Butler can't wait. The Chesapeake native has grown tired of answering his phone the past few weeks, when major-league teams have been calling to ask him how much money it will take to sign him.
"So many phone calls," Butler said in a phone interview Saturday. "I've always got to be around my phone, always have to have it on and charged. It's just an aggravation at times."
There were 15 to 30 major-league scouts at each of Butler's starts this year, said Raccuia.
Radford is not exactly known as a pipeline to the major leagues, but Baseball America considers Butler to be the top prospect among the commonwealth's college and high school players this year.
"He's always had an above-average major-league fastball with command and movement," Raccuia said. "The thing that's separating him now is his off-speed pitches have really taken off."
There will be 31 picks in the first round tonight, followed by 29 picks in the supplemental round, which compensates teams that lost prized free agents. The draft will resume Tuesday with rounds 2-15, followed by 25 more rounds Wednesday. There are 10 fewer rounds this year.
Raccuia figures Butler, the Big South pitcher of the year, will likely be taken in the supplemental round and no later than the second round.
MLB Network, which will televise tonight's portion of the draft, invited Butler to attend the draft at its Secaucus, N.J., studio. But he has decided to remain in Chesapeake with family and friends.
Baseball America rates Butler the No. 85 prospect in the nation. ESPN.com rates him the No. 72 prospect, seven spots behind Virginia pitcher Branden Kline.
"He's the type of kid that can pitch the first four innings of a college baseball game just with his fastball," Raccuia said. "He doesn't need much else because of the movement."
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Butler usually throws his fastball 92-94 mph, said Raccuia, but has been clocked at 96-97 mph.
"When he really needs his fastball, he can run out there at 96, 97," Raccuia said. "There have been times this year where he has been in the ninth inning and he's still clocking 96, 97 mph. But he doesn't always use 96, 97 early in baseball games.
"A couple things that scouts questioned were his physical nature, is he durable enough to be an everyday starter in the big leagues? Any time you can sit there pitching 91 to 93, 94 for 100 pitches and then all of a sudden from your 100th pitch to your 115th pitch you sit 96, 97, that's pretty impressive. That eliminated questions about his durability."
Butler was 7-4 with a 2.20 ERA and three complete games in 14 starts for Radford (29-28-1) this year. He had 95 strikeouts and 23 walks in 98 innings. In only one of his final seven starts did he allow more than two runs.
"I'm a pitcher that eats up innings," he said. "Early in the count, my first pitch often times I'll throw a fastball down the middle to get guys to swing at it - put it in play and get an out. If I end up getting two strikes on a guy, that's when I go for the strikeout.
"But to last as long as you can in the game, you've got to get outs early on the count, so that kind of takes away from getting strikeouts."
Butler tied the school record with nine wins a year ago. But his ERA was higher (4.15) than it was this year, and he had fewer strikeouts (72 in 95 1/3 innings).
"This year his secondary stuff has really turned into big-league pitches," Raccuia said. "His slider has more depth to it. It's become a strikeout pitch. His breaking ball, he has more command of it. He's developed a really good change-up."
Butler expects to turn pro and skip his senior season. He said the Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins have shown the most interest in him, but he has heard from every major-league team.
Only two Radford players have ever been drafted in the top 10 rounds. But Butler is confident he can make a successful transition to pro ball.
"With pitching, it's not a big deal what conference you went to," Butler said. "If you can throw well, you throw well. It's a little different for hitting, when you see more guys throwing 95 mph in the SEC or ACC."
He got to face elite hitters last year in the Cape Cod League, the most prestigious summer circuit for college players. He went 1-2 with a 5.22 ERA, mostly as a reliever.
As a Greenbrier Christian senior, Butler picked Radford over Virginia, Miami and Maryland because RU offered more scholarship money and the chance to be a weekend starter as a freshman.
At the end of his senior season of high school, he was picked by the Texas Rangers in the 35th round of the 2009 draft. But he said he never gave any thought to snubbing Radford in favor of pro ball.
Butler said he threw 89-91 mph in high school. He credits his increased velocity to his time in the RU weight room. He gained about 30 pounds during his years at Radford.
"Being able to have a strong core and a strong lower body and a strong back, that's been the main things I've worked on," he said.
His decision three years ago to pick Radford over pro ball should pay off this week. Odds are he won't last until the 35th round this time.
"Going to play pro ball has been my dream, but it's turned out to be a much better decision to go attend college and get bigger and stronger and better," he said.