Trade, Aggression has its Peaks for Burke

Being traded is sometimes a young player's worst nightmare. It means getting adapted to new teammates, new coaches and often new philosophies. For outfielder Kyler Burke, being traded was one of the best things to have happened for his career.

Burke, who will turn 20 later this month, was a supplemental first round (35th overall) draft pick by San Diego in 2006. Just over a year removed from the draft, he was traded to Chicago with catcher Rob Bowen for catcher Michael Barrett.

The left-handed hitting outfielder would play in 63 games for Class Low-A Boise, batting .254 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in his first season as a Cubs prospect and erasing a 0-for-22 start at the beginning of his stint in the Northwest League.

Burke's season didn't end there as the Chattanooga, Tenn., native went on to participate in the Cubs' Instructional League and later Hawaii Winter Baseball. He was assigned to Class A Peoria for the start of the 2008 season.

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You hit a fair amount of home runs last summer in Boise. Are you happy with the way you've managed to develop some power?

Kyler Burke: That part of the game kind of takes care of itself. I don't really try to hit home runs. I think when you're swinging the bat well and not trying to do too much, good things happen. Hopefully I continue to do that throughout this season.

When you were in a 0-for-22 slump with Boise, what helped you break out?

Kyler Burke: Being more aggressive was one of the first things that our hitting coach, Frankie Font, talked to me about. I was taking too many fastballs for strikes. You still want to see good pitches, but I started swinging the bat more and it helped out.

Before the trade, you were with the Padres' Midwest League affiliate in Fort Wayne. How much did the trip back to short-season ball help clear your mind?

Kyler Burke: It was good. The whole trade deal, I took it as a fresh start. I forgot everything that happened with the Padres and started back over from square one. I think it's one of the best things to have happened in my career so far. I got some confidence back and it was a good move.

When the Padres traded you, did you feel as though they were giving up on you?

Kyler Burke: Honestly, at first it was kind of like that because I wasn't expecting it. Then you look into it and they had a chance at the playoffs and they needed a catcher, so it was a good thing to be able to help them out. I talked to some guys in the organization that hated to see me go, but it's a business and things happen.

You were listed as a first baseman on the Instructs roster last fall and that's the position you played primarily in high school. How did the experience go and do you think you might ever go back to that position on a primary basis?

Kyler Burke: They worked me a little there in Instructs and I think I played one game in spring training there. I didn't really do much at first (this spring), so I don't really know what the deal is with that. I guess they're going to keep me in the outfield and I'm fine with that. As long as I'm in the lineup, it doesn't matter where I play.

Would moving you to first be a waste of that golden arm of yours? Some have even called yours the best arm strength in the farm system.

Kyler Burke: It wouldn't really matter to me. Whatever they decide is good with me.

You had a strong showing in Hawaii (.333 AVG in 26 games). Do you think by going there you built on your progress and overall goal of reaching the big leagues?

Kyler Burke: Definitely. It was a good experience and a pretty high level of baseball. It might be the highest I've played at and I saw a lot of good pitching there. I had 80 or 90 at-bats and I saw a lot of breaking stuff and off-speed stuff, especially from the guys from Japan. It was very good for my development.

Other than being consistent and starting the season off on the right foot, what are you working on right now with the bat?

Kyler Burke: I think it's just going up and being mentally prepared every at-bat. It sounds kind of goofy, but it's tough to stay focused for 400 or 500 at-bats every season, and every one counts. I think it's about staying 100 percent focused and sticking with my game plan.

How much has your manager, Sandberg, helped with that?

Kyler Burke: He can sit there and pick your brain whenever you want. He's a great guy and easy to get along with. Learning from a guy like that, you couldn't ask for more.

What are your impressions of your team after your first series?

Kyler Burke: I think we've got a pretty solid team. We're not really offensive or pitching oriented; it's kind of an all-around team. The pitching has done really well and hasn't given up many runs. I think our bats will come around and we'll have a pretty good season.


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