Burton finds his groove after rough spring
By Hal McCoy
Sunday, April 06, 2008
CINCINNATI — CINCINNATI — Spring training for Jared Burton was a Nightmare on Euclid Street, the avenue that runs next to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.
New manager Dusty Baker was told how well Burton pitched last year as a Rule 5 pick, the great stuff he had to bedazzle batters. Burton wanted to show that, but he didn't. Not even close. In eight games, his earned-run average was 8.22 and he gave up 15 hits in 72/3 innings.
Some people had him lopped off the roster. He stuck, though, and what a difference the regular season makes. Burton pitched one inning of Sunday's 8-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and struck out one. Since the season began he has struck out seven of the 11 hitters he faced.
"The last four or five outings this spring, even though I was giving up runs, I was making good pitches," said Burton. "I was getting ground balls that went through holes. But it's a totally different feeling once the season begins and you put on that big-league uniform and the adrenaline gets flowing.
"I'm not going to be a guy who makes excuses, but I think the main thing was that having last year under my belt, when I struggled in spring training I was able to stay confident," he said. "I realized I could do it."
Bako steps up
The rumor mill (just where is that?) says the Reds are scouting the Texas Rangers and catcher Gerald Laird for a possible trade.
Why? With the way Paul Bako is catching, with a .286 batting average that includes a game-winning hit, who needs a catcher?
Baker is more than thrilled with what Bako has done, especially catching the games pitched by the young Latinos, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez.
"He is one of the best non-roster signings that we made and I know we made quite a few (Bako, Corey Patterson, Mike Lincoln, Kent Mercker, Johnny Cueto)," Baker said. "Imagine where we'd be without him, with Ross down and Valentin hurting. Bako is calling a great game, throwing guys out and getting some timely hits."
Baker said Jeff Keppinger is a good hitter, but a poor actor.
In the fourth inning, Keppinger fouled one off his shin that rolled up the third-base line. He stood at the plate, believing the ball was foul. No umpire saw the ball ricochet off Keppinger's foot, so he was called out when the throw went to first.
"I could see the ball come off his shin guard, but it didn't help that he didn't do a very good job of acting. Must not have hurt because it hit off that pad he wears."
Keppinger said it did hurt, "It hit off my foot and I have a bruise on my toe. I guess the umpires didn't see it, everybody makes mistakes. They're the best of the best, too. I didn't know the ball was in play and I didn't see it until the ball hit third base."
Quote of the day
"It was good to see Ken Griffey Jr. get on the board (with his first home run) because he has been swinging the bat well. So has Adam Dunn, without much result, so it would be good to get him on the board (today)." — Baker, talking about the struggles of his two run-producers, Griffey (.263) and Dunn (.176).