Looking for a topic to write about, I went over to the official Mets site to look at how the guys playing Winter Ball did. Usually you can find someone hitting the cover off the ball but of the 16 hitters in various leagues, the highest OPS was the .834 posted by Juan Carlos Gamboa in the Mexican-Pacific League. The pitching was not much better, with the exception of Greg Burke.

In 31 games with Obregon, Burke was 3-1 and a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities. He notched a 2.23 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, along with a 5.0 K/BB ratio. Now, I don’t follow the minors as closely as our own David Groveman, but I know a little and I was disappointed that I had no idea who the Mets’ best Winter Ball player this offseason was.

It turns out that Burke is a former member of the Padres who the Mets signed as a free agent after a strong year in the upper minors with the Orioles in 2012. Burke started the year in Double-A, where he notched 14 saves in 23 games. He had a 1.53 ERA and a 0.852 WHIP in 29.1 IP before getting the call to Triple-A. Burke again posted strong numbers, with an identical 1.53 ERA and a still-impressive 1.019 WHIP. But he did not get a September call-up and in November he was scooped up by the Mets.

Burke already has MLB experience, as he made the show in 2009 while with San Diego. As you might guess from that date, Burke is no spring chicken. He turned 30 this past September, usually an age where a guy who hasn’t been in the majors the past three years despite being healthy ceases to be interesting. But there are a couple of things working in his favor. First, the Mets have big holes in their bullpen, meaning anyone who has displayed an ability to get guys out is worth a look. Secondly, Burke revamped his delivery for the 2012 season, became a sidearmer and is now a completely different pitcher.

“It was sort of a last-ditch effort but it’s actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Burke told Kevin Minnick of the Courier-Post online “I’m definitely better now than I was when I was 25, 26. I’ve been able to maintain my velocity and good spin on my fastball.

“It’s sort of my last chance to get back. I made it to the bigs ‘pitching regular.’ It’s kind of an ego hit to let it go because I had been pitching one way for 20-some years and now I had to try something different. But if I didn’t make any type of adjustment or bring it up I probably would have been released. It was a career saver for sure. I’ve re-invented myself.”

Of course, becoming a sidearmer is a type of double-edged sword. It usually means great success versus RHB at the expense of getting lit up by LHB. Burke certainly displayed this tendency in 2012 but with a 1.53 ERA – it was a tradeoff well worth making.

The splits at Minor League Central do not have ERA for left/right numbers. But they do include FIP and Burke had a 2.88 FIP against lefties in Double-A and a 4.80 FIP against lefties in Triple-A. Against righties at both levels, his FIP was 1.95 in Bowie and 1.22 in Norfolk.

MiLB.com has his L/R splits for Winter Ball and Burke allowed just 12 hits in 13.1 IP against lefties, did not give up a walk or allow a homer to a LHB and limited them to a 2.03 ERA.

It’s very easy to get too excited by Winter Ball numbers but combined with what Burke did at the upper levels of the minors last year, this is a very encouraging sign. With Manny Acosta signing to pitch in Japan in 2013 and neither Ramon Ramirez nor Jon Rauch likely to return, the Mets have a bunch of innings to make up from the right side of the mound.

We all know how, for better or worse, Terry Collins loves to play matchups with his relievers at the end of the game. Burke seems likely to give him a reliever to pair with a LOOGY to make multiple switches in the end of the game. While I don’t think it’s the way a bullpen should be run, it would be ignoring the obvious not to point this out as a point in Burke’s favor in his attempt to make the Mets out of Spring Training.

So, when Spring Training rolls around – keep an eye on Burke. He has an excellent chance to make the club and add to the San Diego connection that has developed since Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta joined the Mets’ front office.

18 comments on “New acquisition Greg Burke aims for bullpen job with Mets

  • Bill

    This team at best has two big holes in the outfield and a bullpen composed entirely of hope and duct-tape. The Wilpons must be banking everything on 2014

    • MikeN

      Life long Mets fan (since 1966) hard to get excited about this situation. Ownership is the worst I’ve ever seen. No willingness to improve = losing seasons = no excitement = empty seats. What don’t they get? Mets play in the worlds greatest sports market. Franchise should never be in this situation! Never posted a comment ever before but the last few years have been very, very hard to take.

      • Brian Joura

        Hey MikeN – thanks for reading and commenting!

        I don’t know if it’s a case of no willingness to improve as much as it is no cash to improve. The Wilpons spent money when they had it and now they don’t have it. To me, the proof will come in a few years, when the worst of the financial wreck should be behind them. At that point – do they go back to spending money? I sure hope so.

      • Metsense

        Jodi Hecht, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s, cited “cash flow volatility,” noting that “a large portion” of the money pledged to pay off the bonds is “game-day revenue,” which includes sales of club-seat tickets, concessions and parking. How the Mets play will affect the prospects for this revenue, she said. Standard & Poor’s “may lower the rating if cash flows continue to decline due to a combination of poor team performance, slow economic recovery, overcapacity in the New York region,” she added.(NY Times 12/30/12)
        Therefore, the Mets playing for 2014 or 2015 is going to have a negative impact because a losing team will also draw less. If the Mets draw less fans then the bond money will have to come from other sources, most likely player salary. Not competing in the present is going to impact the future.

      • MikeN

        It’s not that I don’t see some real future talent on the horizon but the decline of the franchise has happened over a period of years. The Madoff thing, bad decisions on free agent signings and yes some bad luck has the Mets in a downward spiral for years. Hard for a loyal fan to take any more. Seeing other teams in the division improve their rosters seems to doom them to at least two more losing seasons.

  • Name

    Franky, Parnell, Edgin, Hefner are guaranteed spots.

    I’m expecting them to add at least 1 more arm who will be guaranteed a spot in the pen, so that leaves at most 2 spots left.
    So it will be probably be between Burke, Elvin Ramirez, Carson, and Familia.
    I think he still needs a huge spring to break camp with the club.

    On a lighter note, how many pitchers have posted the same exact ERA’s over 2 or more levels in the minors? My guess is that it has got to be rare.

    • Brian Joura

      That sounds about right. The big unknown now is if Hefner gets a shot at the rotation.

      • Name

        I don’t think he will get a shot.
        Since Sandy said he wanted to bring in a “potential 10 game winner”, we most likely will have all 5 spots filled going in to Spring Training.
        I think that Laffey will be our 6th starter, with McHugh right after him. That’s enough of a reason to keep Hefner in the bullpen. And we still have Meija/Schwinden. And when Wheeler is ready, he will leapfrog everyone.

    • Herb G

      I’ve been following Burke’s progress in winter ball for a month now, and couldn’t help but be impressed. I looked up his career numbers and saw the spike in his performance last year, but didn’t realize it might be due to a change in slot. That means it is more than just pure chance. As a result of tracking him, I posted my thoughts on the bull pen just yesterday on another blogsite.

      I’m not sure Hefner has a guaranteed spot in the pen. Frankie, Parnell and Edgin, yes, and I agree that there will probably be one major league signing with a guaranteed spot. To me, that leaves 3 spots open, with Familia, Carson, Burke, Elvin Ramirez, Armando Rodriguez and possibly Gonzalez Germen duking it out. If Familia makes it through the rest of the off season without getting traded, he will be given every opportunity to make it.

      I’m planning on going to 4 or 5 spring training games in March, and I can’t wait to see all the young kids competing for the various openings. Moreover, I think this can be a really interesting season, watching this young team develop. With any luck, come August we may have a rotation of Harvey, Niese, Gee, Wheeler and Mejia or new guy, and a bull pen of Parnell, Edgin, new guy, Familia, Carson, Burke and Armando/Elvin/Germin. (My pick for that last slot is Armando.)

      • Name

        I was under the impression that Hefner was out of options and hence why i put him as guaranteed a spot. I don’t think the Mets would risk losing like him for nothing.
        In fact, even if he does have options, i don’t think they would send him to AAA either. His major leg up on the rest of the bullpen candidates is that he does have signficant Major league service.

        • Brian Joura

          According to Chris Walendin, Hefner has an option remaining.

  • NormE

    Burke’s reinventing himself has a ring similar to R.A. Dickey. Here’s hoping.

  • Bjorn

    Whether he is NY or Vegas to start the year I am happy to have him. I think it is almost certain that he will be in the bigs at some point, the last couple of spots in the bullpen are often pretty fluid.
    It will be nice to have someone to call up at the very least, someone not named Ryoto Igarashi..

  • JerryGrote

    Ted Abernathy/Kent Tekulve/Danny Quisenberry … my boys!

  • chris

    Chad Bradford 2.0

    Not to be a pessamist but to platoon all 3 OF positions is one thing, but platooning the bullpen is rediculas …a righty specialist, kinda funny…

    …i did like Bradford tho

  • chris

    The beauty of being a pitcher is that ability to learn a new pitch, or adjust your delivery or arm angle and totally re-invent yourself….its something you don’t see anywhere else in sports….

    • Brian Joura

      I agree that it’s beautiful but disagree that you don’t see it anywhere else.

      Buddy Ryan once famously said that all Chris Carter did was catch TD passes. He became the greatest possession receiver in the NFL.

      Rasheed Wallace made four All-Star games as an offensive-minded power forward. Now the Knicks talk about missing him for his defensive skills.

      Craig Biggio went from C to 2B to CF

      • chris

        I don’t really see it with Biggio and Carter as much….

        But you’re absolutely right about Sheed or Larry Johnson

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