NEW BRITAIN - It has been one challenge this season after another for New Britain Bees pitcher Devin Burke.
Between getting released in the beginning of the season, to joining the Bees bullpen to now making his way into the starting rotation it has been an interesting season so far for Burke. But the Darien native has found a way to get the job done, no matter what the Bees ask him to do.
“I’m just trying to throw competitive innings,” Burke said. “I got cut out of spring training. So I didn’t really know what avenue my career was going to take after that.”
With the losses of key starters Andy Van Hekken and Zach Stewart, the Bees have been forced to pull pitchers like Burke from the bullpen to start games. But for the right-hander, his approach remains the same regardless of when he pitches in the game.
“Out of the bullpen, I was just trying to get outs in as little pitches as possible,” Burke said. “The mentality [as a starting pitcher] doesn’t really change too much. I’ve started and came out of the bullpen in my career, even in the same season in fact. I just try to attack hitters and keep us in the game and let your offense work.”
Burke has shined at times in the rotation. In six starts, he has a 1-1 record and 34 2/3 innings pitched, giving up 33 hits and a 3.38 ERA. Despite spots of dominance, the pitcher isn’t satisfied with his performance.
“Personally, I feel like I’ve had a lot to improve on every single outing,” Burke said. “I’m never completely happy with what I do. I would have liked to have finished what I started [last Monday]. But as long as I can keep us in games and competitive - that’s what my job entails. I’ve gotten into trouble trying to do way too much with my pitches, things like that.”
Burke may have been disappointed not to be able to go the distance last week against the Road Warriors, where Burke was dominant through seventh inning but gave up three runs in the eighth before being pulled. But his willingness to stay in the game was impressive to manager Wally Backman.
“He really wanted go out there in the eighth inning,” Backman said. “We had the lead and he wanted the ball, so we gave it to him. He obviously unraveled and gave up some runs, but you like that he wanted the ball in that situation.”
Burke responded with seven shutout innings Sunday night against the Sugar Land Skeeters. He only gave up three hits as well.
Burke will be a key arm down the stretch for New Britain, who is third in the Liberty Division and on the outside looking in at the playoffs. The pitcher not only has aspirations for the team, but him personally.
“I would like to not be in this league anymore,” Burke said. “Obviously, I’d like to be in affiliated ball. But playoffs with this group of guys would be really fun. If we take care of business, yeah we may need some help, but we have a shot. I have to do my job and everyone has to do their job. I would like to play a small role in that.”
While Burke’s main goal is to get picked up by an MLB club, his main focus right now is doing whatever he can to be more effective on the mound.
“I just have to keep pitching well and keep executing pitches,” Burke said. “I have to pitch a lot better than I have been. Whatever happens, it’s out of my control. What’s in my control is helping this team win and not trying to do too much.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org