Friday, March 21, 2008

Burnett in the pen

One of the more interesting storylines to me this spring has been Sean Burnett's success as a short reliever. There is certainly ample evidence that guys that have had their arms ravaged by injury really benefit from a move out of the rotation and into the 'pen, as the short workload allows them to focus on one inning and get out of the game, rather than try and preserve their arm over the course of a start.

That being said, I'm not totally sold on Burnett out of the pen. Today's the longest story we've gotten on him this spring and there's no real details about how his pitches look. He looked awesome last spring in mostly short work, then flamed out in the rotation in AAA and if my memory serves, could only muster around 85 on his fastball. In general, the guys that really have success in a switch like this are power pitchers; Gagne, Smoltz, etc. and they generally were at least decent starters at some point in their career and I don't know if Burnett's short pre-injury minor league career and five game stretch in 2004 is enough to pull that judgment from.

To be honest, I don't know why I'm so intrigued by Burnett. I guess it's probably just because I was in attendance for his first career win and for whatever reason, that memory really sticks out. In the time I went to Duquesne, I probably went to somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-100 Pirates games (seriously). When I moved down to Chapel Hill, I found a stash of my tickets (which I keep because I'm a packrat) and generally found myself leafing through them going, "I don't remember any of these games). Probably 10 or maybe 20 of them stand out in my mind, but that's it. For some reason, Sean Burnett beating the Cardinals in late June of 2004 is one of them. It's probably because in the car on the way down my dad and I laughed at how hopeless it seemed for the Pirates to be sending a winless rookie out against the juggernaut Cards, who own PNC Park, and I cracked, "Come on, we're gonna have to hold on to these ticket stumps for Sean Burnett's first career win when he gets into the Hall of Fame." He did win that night, with six scoreless innings, and he won his four starts after that. And then he pitched poorly for a few starts, his elbow exploded, and four years later I'm just hoping he doesn't make a terrible reliever. Such is life as a Pirate fan, I suppose.