Burke nursing broken finger at Reds' training camp

BY foxsports • February 26, 2010

Chris Burke jokingly blames his father for his broken finger.

The Cincinnati Reds' utilityman broke a knuckle on his right ring finger during a drill Thursday. He kidded that if his dad hadn't taught him the proper way to catch a popup, he wouldn't be sidelined now.

``I told my dad, thanks a lot for teaching me to catch it two-handed. If I'd hot-dogged it, I'd never have broken my finger,'' Burke said Friday.

The Reds said Burke's finger will be in a splint for two weeks and he is expected to be able to resume baseball activity in about 3 weeks.

Burke finished the 2009 season in the Braves' system after parts of six seasons with the Astros, Diamondbacks and Padres. He signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati in December.

``For me, it's always been a dream to play for the Reds because of where I grew up, in Louisville, Ky., in the shadows of Cincinnati,'' he said. ``When they had an interest, my interest had always been there, so I jumped at the opportunity.''

Burke was a first-round pick by Houston in 2001 out of Tennessee. As a rookie in 2005, his solo home run ended the 18-inning NL playoff game against the Braves, leading Houston to the World Series.

In 2006, he hit .276 with nine home runs, 40 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in his second full season. But his production fell off and he hit .229 in 2007. Burke was traded to Arizona before the 2008 season and struggled there, hitting .194 in 86 games.

In 2009, Burke signed a minor league deal with San Diego, was traded to Seattle and then was traded back to San Diego less than a month later. The Padres sent him down in June and he finished the season playing Triple-A for Atlanta.

``He killed us when he was in Houston, he was a pretty good player,'' Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ``At the University of Tennessee, he was one of the most highly touted guys around. At 29, he's certainly not old, he's interesting to me. I was asking him what happened, because I know he can hit. He said he was hurt. Most of the time if a guy can hit and he doesn't hit, there's something wrong psychologically or he's hurt.''

Burke has played every position other than catcher and pitcher in the big leagues, giving the Reds a possible utility player they could plug in anywhere. Although he came up as a middle infielder, when he got to Houston Craig Biggio was there, so he's played 218 of his total 477 big league games in the outfield.

The Reds' starting infield is set, but just about every bench spot is up for grabs. For Burke, he could find a way to backup just about anyone on the field.

Now, though, his hopes of making the Reds are in trouble because of a simple popup drill on Thursday. Burke said he was drifting back on the ball and put his top hand up a split-second too soon, it landed on the tip of his finger.

``It's concern for the stability of the joint. As they were trying to pop it back in place, it was sliding in and out.''

For Burke, it's especially disappointing not to be on the field, considering he's new to the organization and trying to make the team and a good impression.

``The timing couldn't be worse, but it's my reality and I'm going to have to deal with it,'' Burke said. ``I'm just going to have to stay in shape and get back as soon as I can.''

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