The first interesting factoid about Jared Burton: his real first name is Levi, and Jared is his middle name. I can only assume he stopped using his first name because people kept mistaking him for the Star Trek actor. I’m sure fans kept asking, “how can you see the strike zone with that visor in the way?”
Assuming that he doesn’t blast off with the crew of the Enterprise, Jared Burton will wear jersey number 61 this Spring in Florida. Those are the same digits Livan Hernandez sported in 2008. Hernandez cost the Twins $5 million, so Burton’s Major League minimum salary looks like a pretty good deal. Burton is a 30 year old right-hander who stands at 6’5” and weighs about 225 pounds. He was one of Terry Ryan’s first transactions in his second go-round. Ryan brought in Burton on November 11th, just four days after his return to the GM chair.
Just like his non-roster teammate Jason Bulger, Burton has pitched in the Majors as a reliever for several seasons. The Reds obtained him as a Rule 5 pick from Oakland in 2007, and he gave a solid performance: 2.51 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched. He followed up with a 3.22 ERA and a stellar 8.9 K/9 rate in 54 games in 2008, then a 4.40 ERA in 53 games in 2009. Keeping the ERA low has never been a problem. For his career, Burton has a 3.41 mark. But ERA is not necessarily the best measure of a relief pitcher, since they often come on with runners on base, and if those runners score the runs do not get charged to the reliever. His secondary numbers are decent but not overwhelming: a .232 opponents’ batting average, 1.33 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9. Walks are a bit of a problem, as Burton has given up 3.9 BB/9 in his career.
After a promising start, Burton has dealt with injury troubles in 2010 and 2011. He had surgery to clear up a shoulder problem last year, and it held him to just three MLB appearances. He spent most of the season on the DL, but he returned to make a few rehab appearances at AAA. His fastball was in the 91-94 mph range in those appearances. Interestingly, that’s higher than Burton usually throws. Even in his best season, 2008, he only averaged 92 mph on the fastball.
The bullpen situation is going to be a vicious competition; there are a lot of players fighting for seven jobs, and aside from Matt Capps and Glen Perkins, nobody is 100% guaranteed to earn a bullpen job for the Twins. At 30 years old, Burton probably won’t get a lot of chances to stick around with a Major League team. This is a very important season for his career, and you can expect him to be working very hard to prove that he can return to his 2008 form.
The good new is that Burton’s previous Major League experience qualifies as a resounding success when compared to many of the other candidates, so he has as good a chance as anyone to win a spot. The only thing that might stop him would be his injury history – he’ll have to prove to the Twins that his shoulder troubles are a thing of the past.
Keep checking back. Puckett’s Pond will have a new writeup of a Twins non-roster invitee every day until we’ve discussed all 25. If you missed the first few, you can find them here.