Burke stirs up interest by pitching
Mariners catcher bummed about losing game on mound
OAKLAND -- There were so many messages left on his cell phone Sunday evening and Monday morning that Jamie Burke decided that returning all of them would be far too time-consuming.He'll get back to the well-wishers later. "I expected a few calls, but this was more than a few," the Mariners' third-string catcher said on Monday afternoon prior to Seattle's game against the Athletics at McAfee Coliseum. "People are excited for me, and it's good to see that. It's neat for them to see something like that." Burke became an entry in the Mariners' history book on Sunday afternoon when he removed the catcher's gear he wore from the ninth through 14th innings and walked to the pitcher's mound at Safeco Field to pitch the 15th inning. The catcher-turned-pitcher retired three of the four batters he retired, but a leadoff double, a really, really wild pitch, and long fly ball to left field produced the run that saddled the Mariners with a 2-1 loss to the Tigers in front of almost 30,000 fans who were definitely entertained, and probably baffled, by the whole thing. It marked only the third time in franchise history that a position player pitched, and in both previous occurrences, the game was a blowout. Infielder Manny Castillo pitched 2 2/3 innings in a 17-9 Mariners loss to the Blue Jays on June 26, 1983, and utility player John Mabry worked two-thirds of an inning on May 28, 2000, during a 14-4 loss to the Rays. But Burke's MLB pitching debut came in a tie game. "You don't see that many situations where [a position player] are in there with the game on the line," Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "Usually, it's just to get the game over with and save your bullpen a little. I'm surprised any non-pitcher would want to go out and pitch in that situation. I just didn't want anyone to go out there and embarrass themselves, and he didn't." Stottlemyre, who has been in the Majors for 44 years, says he could recall only one other instance that a position player worked in a tight game. "Rocky Colavito pitched three innings against the Tigers in 1968 and won the game," he said. "You can look it up. He has a 1-0 record and a 0.00 ERA." Colavito, a strong-armed outfielder, actually pitched in two big league games, working 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in the middle innings of a game against the Tigers on Aug. 25, 1968, which he won, and three scoreless innings for the Indians in a game played in 1958. As for Burke, he is still bummed about absorbing the loss. "I feel a little tight in places, but not that bad," he said. Asked where this ranks among his career high points, he said, "Well, it's something you can always look back on and know you pitched an inning in the big leagues, but my biggest thrill is being in the big leagues and making this team out of Spring Training. But this ranks up there pretty high." Interim manager Jim Riggleman doesn't anticipate an encore anytime soon. "No," he said when asked about Burke's availability in the bullpen.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.