Greg Burke: Blue Jays AAA RHP, Padres/Mets

 

1. Could you tell us your story on dropping down?

Up until 2012 I was your conventional over the top RHP that threw 90mph. I made the bigs with the San Diego Padres in 2009. In Spring Training 2012 I was with the Baltimore Orioles and figured why not, I had nothing else to lose. The pitching coach at the time was Rick Petersen. He is known for being open to pitcher's trying new things. We worked on it and faced some live hitters right away. It went well, didn't lose much velocity and was getting guys out. Baltimore had me stay in extended spring training to keep working on it. Eventually got sent to AA and made it to AAA. The following year I signed with the Mets and got called up. 

 

2. What are some of the advantages you have from your arm angle?

Big advantage is vs right handed hitters. Just the angle and deception I create it's difficult for them to face me. I'm able to make more mistakes vs them. It's a bit of a battle vs lefties. Another advantage for me is that I can be used in different situations. 

 

3. If you didn't drop down, do you think you would have had the same success?

I think at that point in my career definitely not. I was a bullpen guy but not throwing in the mid 90's as most guys do. I did make the bigs already but to get back there I definitely needed to drop down. I guess getting released forced me to do it, my back was against the wall. 

4. What would you tell someone debating on changing their arm angle?

I would say if you are thinking about dropping down, it's a big ego check. Could say you are putting on a new hat. You need to survey yourself and ask am I going to make it to the next level whatever that is: college or the Majors. As a player you want to get to the highest level you can. Some people plateau though and would say it's worth a shot. For those bubble guys, that aren't pitching that much then why not!

5. Are there any mechanical tips that you'd give to someone throwing sidearm/submarine?

Mechanics wise from over the top there are a lot of checks and balances but from down below things are different. I would watch a lot of video of guys who pitched from there and everyone is different. Some land open, some land closed, some pitch on this side of the rubber etc everyone is different. I'm big fan of get the ball and throw it, if it works then stick with it. I would try to mimic someone else and it wouldn't work. Basically grip it and rip it from the lowest arm slot possible. 

6. What pitches do you throw?

 Fastball/slider

7. How do you pitch to lefties/righties?

I'm in and out vs righties then sliders away. I'll elevate sometimes too. Lefties when first dropped down, I was all sinkers away but then hitters started to cheat and dive at it, take it the other way. Now to them I'm going inside on them, hard in then soft away. I'll try and elevate too about belly button level to jam them. 

8. Lastly what is your favorite part about pitching from down there?

To be honest with you, it's just fun. Feels like little league again. I'm different, there aren't many of us, sometimes just one in a staff. Guessing same feeling as throwing 100mph, there just aren't that many of those guys around.