NEW BRITAIN - Plenty has changed for Devin Burke in his second stint with the New Britain Bees.
And it’s been working out for both the pitcher and his team.
When Burke was brought back to the Bees last month, he was primarily used in the bullpen, effectively securing high-leverage outs while keeping his ERA below 2.00. While the 28-year-old enjoyed immediate success in his relief role, manager Mauro Gozzo needed more from Burke. An injury to Cory Riordan caused a need for a rotation arm, and Burke was asked to fill in that role.
The righty responded with three effective starts in a row and not only has Burke given Gozzo and the Bees valuable length, even after mainly being used in short spurts, but he has also kept opposing lineups quiet, just like he did when he was trotting out of the bullpen earlier in the season. In his last start, Burke threw seven shutout innings against the Sugar Land last weekend.
“He’s a horse,” Gozzo said of Burke. “Any kind of word or adjective you can use to describe someone who is gutsy. He goes out there and gives it your all. He’s the type of player you put out there and know he’s going to give 100 percent every single time.”
Burke’s transition to the rotation was quick, but it wasn’t unfamiliar. As a member of the Bees last year, he was primarily used out of the bullpen, but also logged nine spot starts along the way. Gozzo, the team’s pitching coach last season, remembered Burke’s versatility, knowing his pitcher could rotate within roles without needing much time to adjust.
“I love starting and I love coming out of the pen,” Burke said. “It’s just two different animals and just trying to not change my stuff based on my role and pitch to my strengths instead of trying to be someone I’m not. It doesn’t matter what my role is, as long as I just stay within myself and pitch my game.”
Burke admits to changing mindsets and strategy depending on what role is asked of him, but it’s a change he welcomes. Whether he’s on the mound in the first inning or the seventh, the overall attack plan is the same, despite some minor tweaks that have to be implemented.
“I feel like in the pen I have more margin for error because the starters have established some things and opened up some different sequences I can use on hitters,” Burke explained. “For starters, it’s just trying to execute pitches and hit spots and be efficient. I’ve done both so it’s not that hard of a transition, it’s just about making every pitch count.”
So far, Burke has made all of his pitches count, especially in Sunday’s dominant outing. Should Gozzo need more innings filled out of the rotation as the season heads into its second half, it appears he has found the man for the job.
“I think we’ll see him throw more innings in the rotation,” Gozzo said. “He’s in a good spot right now, but if Riordan is going to miss some time, I can see us putting him in the rotation. But he’s valuable no matter where you have him. We had him last year, and he’s just awesome to have. I can see him as a starter for maybe the rest of the year.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org