There has been some discussion about whether Brian Burres should be a candidate for the 25-man roster after his performance today, and his performance overall this Spring. Burres threw two perfect innings against the Minnesota Twins this afternoon, which puts him up to six shutout innings this Spring, with three hits allowed, no walks, and four strikeouts.
A closer look at today’s game shows that Burres faced Ben Revere, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Danny Valencia, Matthew Brown, Matt Tolbert, and Brian Dinkelman. Nishioka and Valencia are the only projected starters for the Twins in 2011. Revere and Tolbert are projected bench players, and Brown and Dinkelman seems more like AAA depth. That’s not exactly plowing through the heart of the Minnesota system.
Looking back at his previous outing, Burres had a similar experience. On March 4th he went up against Philadelphia, taking on Brian Schneider, Harold Garcia, Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, and Raul Ibanez. Burres allowed one hit, which was a ground rule double to Rollins.
In his first outing, Burres took on the Tampa Bay Rays. He faced Felipe Lopez, Casey Kotchman, Justin Ruggiano, Ray Olmedo, Desmond Jennings, and Sam Fuld. To his credit, he did get Jennings and Fuld to strike out swinging.
Too much is made of Spring Training stats, especially for players who are on the bubble for a roster spot. There is one projected bullpen spot open, with Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Joe Beimel, Jose Veras, Jeff Karstens, and Chris Resop projected to fill out the rest of the bullpen. There could be a second bullpen spot if Joe Beimel has to start the season on the disabled list, although that’s looking less likely.
Burres has pitched six innings, and hasn’t really gone up against anything that could be considered a major league starting lineup. The thing about Spring Training stats is that they’re always a small sample size, especially for a guy like Burres. He has 344 innings in the majors, with 101 appearances. In that time, Burres has put up a 5.83 ERA, a 5.6 K/9, and a 4.1 BB/9 ratio. He’s a left hander, and the Pirates need left handers, but Burres isn’t the ideal left handed reliever. He has a career .303 OBA versus left handers, which is worse than his .290 OBA against right handers. His OPS is .832/.833 righty/lefty. In 2010 he had his best season, with a 4.99 ERA, mostly in the rotation. But again, he struggled against left handers, with a .308/.386/.526 line, compared to his .265/.343/.466 line against right handers.
Burres has established his role in the majors. He’s a backup option out of AAA, with the ability to start or pitch out of the bullpen. He’s not a guy you want as your left handed reliever, due to his reverse splits. He’s had plenty of time in his major league career to establish that this role is legit. Six successful early Spring Training innings against what amounts to a “B” lineup doesn’t change that. Burres is a great guy to have in AAA this year in case the Pirates run in to problems like last year, but he’s not a guy who should be starting the season in the majors.