Francisco Luis Butto
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 200 lb.
Butto signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1999 and debuted that year for La Victoria in the Venezuelan Summer League, going 5-2 with a 4.37 ERA. In 2000, he had a 4-3, 2.04 record. For 2001, he was promoted to the GCL Phillies, where he went 2-3 with a 2.42 ERA. In 2002, he starred for the GCL Phillies, going 7-2 with a 2.31 ERA. Somewhat old for the Gulf Coast League, he led the circuit in complete games (3), shutouts (2) and opponent batting average (.160). He was second in wins, one behind Zach Duke and was 5th in strikeouts (52). He was 11th in ERA.
The Maturin native spent 2003 with the Lakewood BlueClaws, posting a 10-12, 3.02 record. He was one loss behind South Atlantic League leader Jailen Peguero. In 2004, Francisco was 5-11 with a 4.85 ERA for the Clearwater Threshers, third in the Florida State League in losses. He moved to the bullpen in 2005 and pitched for Clearwater (1-2, 3 Sv, 3.49) and the Reading Phillies (2-5, 3 Sv, 3.65).
A free agent, Butto signed with the New York Yankees for 2006. He split time between the Trenton Thunder (3-2, 2.99) and Columbus Clippers (3 R in 6 IP), making it to AAA in his 8th pro season. He is listed as saving 14 games for the Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan League in 2006, but it is unclear if this refers to the 2005-2006 Venezuelan League or the 2006-2007 League.
In the 2007 Caribbean Series, Butto took the loss in the longest Caribbean Series game ever. Pitching for Aragua in the bottom of the 18th inning against the Águilas Cibaeñas with a 3-2 lead, he allowed Alberto Castillo to reach, then made an error to give Castillo second base. Castillo took third on a failed pick-off by Steve Torrealba, then Bernie Castro singled in a run. Butto fanned Anderson Hernandez but Luis Polonia singled. Miguel Tejada was walked intentionally, then Tony Batista hit the game-ending sacrifice fly. Later in the Series, he saved a win over the Gigantes de Carolina. Overall, he had a 0.00 ERA in 3 1/3 innings, with both runs in the 18-inning game loss being unearned.
Butto went to the Mexican League in 2007, pitching for the Vaqueros Laguna. He went 3-4 with 11 saves and a 3.27 ERA, striking out 51 in 44 innings. In the 2008 Caribbean Series, he had a 3.38 ERA in two outings for Aragua. In the summer of 2008, Francisco pitched for two Mexican League clubs, going a combined 3-0 with 7 saves and a 3.20 ERA in 57 games. He tied for 5th in the Liga in games pitched.
In the winter of 2008-2009, Butto was 3-3 with 8 saves and a 3.86 ERA for the Tigres de Aragua. He then saved four games in the 2009 Caribbean Series, posting a 2.70 ERA, to help the Tigres to their first Caribbean Series title. The feat earned him Series MVP honors. The best of the saves may have been the first, as he struck out major leaguers Timo Perez, Jose Bautista and Ronnie Belliard in order to preserve a 3-2 win over the defending champions, the Tigres del Licey. The next Series MVP from a LVBP team would be José Martínez in 2016. He set a Series record for saves, one that would not be matched until Manny Corpas did so ten years later.
Butto was added to Venezuela's roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic shortly after the Caribbean Series, even though he had not been on the provisional roster they had previously released.