Instructs Q&A: Kyler Burke

Kyler Burke (Pam Davis Photo)

An outfielder by trade, Kyler Burke is learning a new position in the Cubs' annual Instructional League camp in Arizona this month.

Burke, a first-round pick in the 2006 draft, was acquired by the Cubs from San Diego in mid-June in the trade that sent Michael Barrett to the Padres.

He had batted .211 in 62 games with Class-A Fort Wayne in the Padres system and upon joining the Cubs, Burke was sent to the short-season Northwest League at Boise, where he hit .254 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 63 games.

All of his starts came in the outfield at Boise, but when the Cubs released their Instructional League roster last month, Burke was seen listed at another position.

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The Cubs say they view a lot of the work in Instructs as team-oriented tasks. Is that the feel that you've gotten as well?

Kyler Burke: Oh yeah, it's definitely a team game and a team sport. We're working as a team to get better, but also by the same hand, everybody has their own individual things that they have to work on and it all kind of comes together. If you work to get better yourself, you're going to be better for your team so I think it all goes together.

We also know that the Cubs had you listed as a first baseman on the initial Instructs roster. Aside from that, what are some things that you're looking to work on now?

Kyler Burke: I've got a lot to learn at first base. That's not really a permanent move; it's just that they want me to have that option to play first base. We have a lot of outfielders down here and I think it's more about giving me another option down the road. The more positions you can play, the better. In the outfield, there's always getting better at reading balls off the bat, getting better jumps and making better outs. There are little things like that that seem small, but really help your game out a lot.

What are your impressions of first so far?

Kyler Burke: I like it. Growing up, I actually played first base pretty much my whole life and played it in high school. Then I started playing the outfield. I really enjoy playing first. As long as I'm getting my at-bats, it doesn't really matter where they've got me.

What's the biggest difference to you now at first versus when you played there in high school?

Kyler Burke: There's definitely a lot more detail to it now. Instead of just catching the ball, you've got bunt plays, pickoff plays, relays and stuff like that. It's being in the right place at the right time. It's not just for slow people over there that can't play anymore. You've got to be able to play and I think it's a pretty important position.

The change in organizations in the middle of the season – what were your thoughts?

Kyler Burke: I felt like I was starting all over. It's been a really easy transition. There are some great guys in the organization. It's been really fun. I thought it might be kind of awkward, but it hasn't really been at all.

What did you want to get accomplished at Boise and do you feel you met those goals?

Kyler Burke: I thought it was an OK year. It started out kind of slow. I started hitting the ball pretty good and I got my confidence up a little bit. There is definitely some stuff I need to work on and get better at, but I thought it was an OK year.

What did you make of the Cubs' decision to have you go to the Northwest League instead of having you stay put in the Midwest League following the trade?

Kyler Burke: I think it was actually a good move. (Cubs Farm Director) Oneri (Fleita) said they wanted to put me there and that I'd get to play every day just about, get my confidence up and have some success. That's kind of what happened, so I think it was a good move. It didn't bother me at all.

Are your strikeout totals something that concerns you?

Kyler Burke: It's definitely something that I'm working on – trying to be a tougher out and put the ball in play on a more consistent basis. I think that will kind of take care of itself as I get older and get some more experience.

You mentioned your work defensively. What are you working on now with regards to your swing and the offensive part of your game?

Kyler Burke: A lot of it is trying to be more consistent and staying on top of my swing, not collapsing my back side and not leaning over the plate. My body kind of got tilted toward the plate and I got up on my toes some during the year. I'm working on staying grounded for the most part and getting more consistent.

You'd had only two career home runs until you joined Boise, where you hit 10 out of the park. Is that something that surprised you and are you starting to develop some power?

Kyler Burke: I think a lot of that comes with confidence and just being more relaxed at the plate. I wasn't trying to hit home runs; it's just one of those things that kind of happens. It's a good thing to start hitting a few and hopefully I can continue it.

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