The nerves and butterflies may be gone, but that could be the best thing for Miami Marlins outfielder Peyton Burdick. After two short stints with the Major League club as a rookie late last year, the 26-year-old was called up again Wednesday ready to compete without the rookie-year jitters.
Before Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Burdick told Fish Stripes his initial call-up from Triple-A Jacksonville last August was “just a dream.”
“You’re just kind of in shock,” Burdick said. “And now it’s just like you’ve been with the guys a lot and it’s just another game. So it’s definitely cooled off a lot in terms of feeling like you belong and whatnot. So this year, it’s more like, ‘been there done that’. So it’s really easy to just go out there and play every day.”
In his 32 games and 102 plate appearances at the Major League level last season, Burdick hit .207 with a .665 OPS along with four home runs. The most glaring issue was his 34.3% strikeout rate.
Burdick said the first thing he needed to learn in the majors last year was how to get back to doing what he does best.
“Just learning how to use my front side again and getting back into my front hip, which I was doing a lot in college and in my first couple of years in pro ball,” said Burdick, who added he worked a lot with Marlins hitting coach Brant Brown during spring training this year. “And then last year I was worrying more about the top (of the strike zone), and I lost my strength, which is the bottom two layers of the zone. And now it’s just focusing back on that stuff.”
Burdick’s second stint in late September and early October, while brief, was certainly more promising than his first. In six games, he went 5-for-10 with two home runs and seven RBI. He only had two home runs and four RBI in his initial 26-game stint.
But despite a solid start in Triple-A this year that saw him post a 1.017 OPS and 10 home runs in 25 games, his strikeout issues followed him. His strikeout rate was 38.9% at the time of his call-up.
“I think really, it’s the strikeout rate that has got to come down,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said Thursday, before saying he can be a Harrison Bader-type player. “And he knows that, we know that. So I think having him up here and (Triple-A hitting coach Greg Colbrunn) down there, he has done a really good job of pitch selection down there. Still work to do. But there’s so much talent in there. If we can somehow figure out how to cut down the strikeout rate, this guy’s a really really good player.”
Burdick got his first Major League start of 2023 on Thursday against the Braves. With three consecutive left-handed pitchers scheduled to make starts against the Marlins, along with three day games against the Chicago Cubs this weekend, Schumaker wanted to give regular center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. a day off.
Burdick responded by going 0-for-2, but collected a run with two walks, one of which was an 11-pitch battle against lefty starter Dylan Dodd.
It’s still unclear how long Burdick will be up here for, and what his role will be. With outfielders Avisail Garcia on the 10-day IL with back tightness and Bryan De La Cruz struggling offensively, Schumaker said the obvious: he’ll put Burdick wherever it helps the team on any given day.
“The most important part, here, is to win,” Schumaker said. “And so if he’s going to help us win, then he’ll play…so that’s kind of the message and the motive behind it.”
Burdick echoed the same team-first sentiment:
“Whatever I can do to help win,” Burdick said. “Go out there, compete, and just give it my all every day. That would be successful to me personally. Winning makes everything better and makes the clubhouse a lot more fun.”