Last season, the Oakland A’s selected right-hander A.J. Burke in the 31st round out of Western Oregon, one of the alma maters of former A’s starter Dan Straily. Burke threw 90 innings for Western Oregon during his senior season, posting a 2.78 ERA. He struck-out 91 and walked 20 that season.
After signing with the A’s, Burke pitched out of the AZL A’s bullpen for the entire short-season schedule. He posted an ugly 7.84 ERA in 20.2 innings as a reliever, but he pitched better than that ERA total would indicate, as his FIP was more than four runs lower than his ERA.
Burke spent the first half of the 2014 season working at extended spring training on improving his mechanics. A slight change with his hands resulted in an ability to locate better. Burke moved into the Vermont Lake Monsters’ starting rotation at the beginning of the short-season and he was one of Vermont’s steadiest starters in 2014.
Burke made 15 appearances for the Lake Monsters (13 starts) and he had a 3.89 ERA and a 57:13 K:BB in 71.2 innings. He improved his walk rate from 2013 by more than two percent.
Donald Moore spoke with Burke during the Lake Monsters’ final road trip about his 2014 season.
Donald Moore: How's everything going this year for you?
A.J. Burke: It's been good. I have just been doing this since extended spring training and am trying to have the best year as possible.
DM: What were your goals for this year?
AB: To be a starting pitcher, which I've done, and just to have as successful a year as possible and finish the year strong.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a ball player?
AB: The fact that I am able to mentally process what is going on in the game, make adjustments during a game and after games, and then take that into my next outing.
DM: How are you adjusting to professional baseball?
AB: It's my second year and it's a lot different from college. But,the jump from last year to this year, I think as I said earlier, the biggest thing for me was mentally. Mentally being able to figure it out and not let things that were rough the previous outing dictate what I did the next outing. I think that has been the biggest thing for me.
DM: Any pregame routines?
AB: No, I just like to try to relax and not think too much.
DM: Favorite thing you like to do off the field?
AB: Hunting and fishing, big time. I'm a big time hunter and fisherman.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
AB: I was always a Yankees fan because my cousin played for them, Brian Bruney.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
AB: My parents and my coaches growing up. My high school coach helped me a lot and my college coaches were awesome, so those are the guys that probably influenced me, baseball-wise, the most.
DM: Where do you see yourself four years from now?
AB: I'd love to see myself in the big leagues four years from now. That's the goal.
DM: Thank you for your time and the best of luck to you in your future.
AB: Thank you very much.