Burton looks to return to last year's form

Burton looks to return to last year's form

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds reliever Jared Burton refuses to chalk up his lackluster exhibition game results thus far to "it's just Spring Training."

"I have been upset that I haven't been successful so far in camp," Burton said on Tuesday. "It's never good to give up runs."

Through four innings over four games, Burton has allowed four earned runs and eight hits for a 9.00 ERA. He hasn't walked anyone and struck out three. In his previous game on Saturday against the Red Sox, he gave up three earned runs and four hits in one inning.

Manager Dusty Baker never saw Burton pitch in person before this spring. He is keeping an open mind before he draws conclusions or gets worried.

"I don't know what to be concerned about -- I'm learning," Baker said. "I'm going on what he's done in the past and the people that have seen him do well."

Last season, Burton was one of the rare Rule 5 Draft pick success stories. The right-hander, who was plucked from the A's organization in December 2006, made the jump from the Double-A and owned a 2.51 ERA in his 47 appearances for the Reds.

That included a 1.83 ERA over 36 games in the second half, where Burton emerged as one of the best eighth-inning set-up options for a bullpen that largely struggled last season.

"Hopefully he can show something these next couple of weeks because coming into camp, we were counting on him big time," Baker said. "Everybody else was too, based on what he had done last year."

Following his last outing against Boston, Burton hunkered down with pitching coach Dick Pole and watched video of his 2007 performances.

Pole felt that the 26-year-old's delivery needed to be quicker. The necessary tweaks were made in a side bullpen session on Monday and Burton felt it went well.

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"My delivery was a little slow and my arm speed wasn't there," Burton said. "Me and Dick found something that triggered me to get my arm going a little bit. I have been throwing strikes. That hasn't been a problem. It's getting the arm speed going to have late deception on my pitches."

Burton pitched in a Minor League game for Class A Dayton on Tuesday to get his work in. He threw 29 pitches over two scoreless innings and allowed a bunt single.

Although he is not fully established in the Majors yet, Burton's 2007 season has permitted him to enjoy a different type of camp experience this year. Expected to share eighth-inning duties with David Weathers this year, Burton is spared the tenuous position of every outing being critical to his chances of making the team.

Still, Burton doesn't go about his business like he's got anything made.

"I've had to really try and harness myself as far as not being too antsy coming off a successful year," Burton said. "I'm one of those people who are always hungry to get better and I'm never satisfied. I had to calm myself down and not overdo it."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.