When evaluating exactly who can help the New York Mets improve upon their horrific 2012 bullpen performance, I keep returning to Greg Burke, signed early in the offseason, and already added to the 40-man roster.
This may seem like wishful thinking, and to a certain extent, it is. Burke hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2009; he pitched for the Orioles at Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, but never earned a big league shot.
Still, some have compared the sidearming Burke to Chad Bradford, but this comparison isn’t really apt. Burke throws in the low-90s with his fastball, slider coming in at 83. Bradford’s fastball regularly checked in at lower velocity than Burke’s slider.
Accordingly, while Bradford struggled throughout his career to get lefties out (except, oddly, in his single season with the Mets), Burke has a better shot of doing so. And he did, last season in particular, putting up strong numbers against lefties and righties.
In this way, Burke has a chance to be more like a different righty sidearmer for the Mets in recent years, Joe Smith. While he was strictly an option against righties while with the Mets, Smith has become a true weapon for the Cleveland Indians. His OPS against righties in 2012 was .600. Against lefties? .585. (Love you, J.J. Putz trade!)
Smith is a fastball/slider pitcher, with comparable velocity on both, though Burke throws a bit harder. But Smith represents a model of what Burke can be.
Considering how many people want to make Josh Edgin something more than a situational lefty, which is career splits indicate would be a massive stretch, I’m surprised to hear the universal conclusion that Burke is a ROOGY only.
This is a year to experiment in the bullpen, by necessity. Burke deserves a look as a crossover guy.