Heading into the 2013 season, the Minnesota Twins were confident in the back-end of their bullpen with setup man Jared Burton and closer Glen Perkins both coming back off solid campaigns in the 2012 season. Burton was coming off of a season—his first with the Twins—where he posted a 3-2 record with a solid 2.18 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP, 55 strikeouts and 18 holds in 62 innings pitched over 64 appearances in 2012. Perkins, on the other hand, was coming off a 2012 where he posted a 3-1 record with a 2.56 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, 78 strikeouts and 16 saves in 70.1 innings pitched over 70 appearances so it is easy to see how the Twins would be optimistic about the back end of their bullpen; however, 2013 hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned for one of the two bullpen stalwarts for the Twins: Burton.
Although Perkins is still having a solid start to 2013 and the Twins bullpen is ranked among the best in all of baseball, Burton hasn’t seemed to be the same pitcher that he was in 2012. He hasn’t pitched with the same effectiveness and has struggled to work out of tough situations that he made a living out of in 2012. Much of it could be attributed to injury problems that he has been battling throughout the season, such as a groin injury that has recently sidelined him for a few days, but could Burton’s struggles be more than injury related?
So far in 2013, Burton has posted a 0-4 record with a 3.68 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP, 30 strikeouts and 13 holds over 29.1 innings in 30 appearances. His ERA and WHIP are both certainly higher than 2012, but his strikeouts still seem to be on pace with last year. The key difference is Burton’s inability to hold a lead and get big outs during important parts of the game, which was illustrated in Thursday night’s game in which Burton gave up two runs and cost the Twins an opportunity to sweep Philadelphia and it all happened in a span of a few pitches. Hitters were jumping on Burton’s first pitch and pounding it all over the park. Whether or not Burton has become too predictable remains to be seen or maybe it is a case of Burton not locating his pitches, but this certainly is not the type of performances we have grown accustomed to expecting out of Burton.
Burton’s struggles have come under a bigger microscope as of late because the Twins are playing better baseball and are trying to remain in contention, but a big part of them performing well and staying competitive will be tied to Burton’s late inning performances. The Twins are certainly a better ballclub then they were last season, but it seems as though Burton is not the same pitcher he was. Again, a lot of this could be injury related or it could be because he is being asked to pitch in more difficult situations due to the fact that the Twins are in more games this year. Whatever the case, Burton needs to turn it around if the Twins expect to contend in 2013 and beyond.
The season is still young and Burton has every chance to turn this thing around and I am confident that he will do just that; but if he continues to struggle over his next few outings, don’t be surprised if a trip to the disabled list is in his future which would reveal the issue that has been bothering Burton this season and is the likely source for his problematic start to 2013.