Padres Prospect Interview: Greg Burke

Lake Elsinore, CA-- Greg Burke has been readily available to fill any role. He has been in the pen, made spot starts, and has officially returned to the rotation. He had to develop his repertoire to adapt – something he found out last year.

You are someone who rarely issued a walk last season. Is there such a thing as throwing too many strikes?

Greg Burke: Absolutely. I think it took me at least half a year to figure out what I was doing. I mean – I wanted to throw strikes. At the same time it got to a point where I threw too many strikes. And you get in trouble rather than setting up a pitch. I just like to be efficient and I guess sometimes it was hurting me more than helping.

As the season progressed I definitely got better and learned when to throw balls sometimes, although I don't necessarily like doing that but it needs to be done sometimes.

What was the off-season like for you considering the year you had in Fort Wayne and the constant adjustments pitchers tend to make?

Greg Burke: I threw a lot. I threw two bullpens a week. I started in late November, a lot of long tosses and a lot of bullpens. I am throwing a split-fingered this year. I kind of had it last year in spring training. It wasn't too good.

At the time they wanted to pound the changeup. I worked on my changeup through the year and I still have confidence in my split-finger. So, really I just threw a lot of bullpens and tried to work on this split-fingered fastball to try and get a feel for it. Right now, I am getting a good feel to combat the lefties. Last year, I was fastball, slider, changeup here and there but I needed something to get those lefties out.

Talk about the different movement you are after to have success against both lefties and righties.

Greg Burke: The slider goes into a lefty and the split-fingered goes down and away from a lefty. I needed something to combat them and let me feel more confident when lefties step into the box.

Do you feel like you were struggling against left-handed hitters?

Greg Burke: The numbers probably say I was better against righties. I feel way more comfortable against righties. I don't know – righty/righty combo. The slider was my pitch last year. Sometimes I struggled getting it in on lefties – leaving my front side open a little bit. It is another pitch. I can throw it to righties as well. A fourth pitch can't hurt.

Talk about the development of new pitch when you are already in full season ball and looking to take your game to the next level.

Greg Burke: I started flirting around with it about two years ago when I was in independent ball before I came here. It actually worked pretty well.

Somewhere along the way, between my last game of independent ball and first game here it got lost somewhere. I don't know what happened. Mentally it was tough because I don't know what happened to it. I came to spring training with it last year and they kind of said, ‘well, that is not very good.' And it wasn't. What was I going to do – I agree.

The very end of last year – the last two games – I started using it again. I guess I got the feel for it finally and it worked. I got some strikeouts on lefties, which was great.

With me it was funny. Some days I would come out and it was on and other days it wasn't. For me, it is a feel pitch. I definitely had to feel my way through it. It wasn't really a new pitch. I just had to tweak it and get back into a rhythm.

You are moving back into the starting rotation for good – what are the expectations?

Greg Burke: There are a lot of expectations. As far as my pitches, I really want to start commanding my fastball a little better than I did last year. I was struggling with fastballs away to righties and that is something I want to establish.

So, when you are missing – is it hitting too much of the plate or up in the zone?

Greg Burke: I throw all two-seamers so they are always running back from left to right and I really have to focus on starting a little off the plate and let it come back. When I do that, I am pretty excited about it. Controlling the fastball and making it go where I want to go – it is not just about throwing strikes but throwing quality strikes. And establishing that split-fingered. Showing that I have confidence in it and then I have a pretty good repertoire of pitches.

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