NEW YORK -- Brian Burres has been through this before. Baltimore's second-year swingman was pulled from the rotation last season and slotted back into the bullpen, a process that was repeated this week. Now, he'll attempt to salvage his year from a variety of roles that include long relief, situational-southpaw duties and serving as last-minute contingency starter. It won't be easy, but Burres hopes he'll be able to find his best form simply from pitching more often. "I really didn't see it coming, but I wasn't really thinking about it," he said. "I try not to think about that stuff as much as possible. I'm just going to look at it as something that can help me out to become a better pitcher."
His career numbers don't make it look like Burres has an edge as a reliever, but a closer inspection reveals something else entirely. He has a 5.69 career ERA as a starter and a 5.79 mark as a reliever, but if you remove one disastrous outing against Texas that saw him yield eight earned runs in less than an inning, then he has a 4.14 ERA in relief. At any rate, Burres just wasn't working out in the rotation. The left-hander got off to a decent start in April but logged a 7.27 ERA in June and a 6.63 mark thus far through July before manager Dave Trembley switched his role. Burres has allowed 16 home runs in 21 appearances this season, and Trembley said that number will have to come down. "What he needs to do is just get outs and take it a little at a time," he said. "He's had two things that have hurt him. One, the home run ball, and two, he hasn't been very effective against left-handed hitters. I think sometimes that plays on your psyche somewhat. He's going to pitch out of the bullpen basically to get some success and get some confidence back." Many starters experience a bump in velocity when they work in shorter stints, but Burres isn't that kind of pitcher. The Orioles just hope his command and control will return to their peak levels, taking his confidence with it. "I've seen him pitch out of the bullpen before and I don't know what his mind-set will be," said Trembley. "I know he always feels like he can get people out, but it should be enough for him to relax and maybe settle into the strike zone somewhat. "He's pitched behind. The third out has been somewhat difficult for him to get. The big inning has been an Achilles heel for him. I don't think you can let guys continue to spin their wheels. You have to try and do something to help." Burres, meanwhile, said that pitching a few times a week may help him in a few subtle ways. After all, he'll be able to tweak his stuff from outing to outing and won't have to wait five days to redeem himself if things go awry. "You'll be getting out to the mound a little more, so you'll be able to tinker," he said. "If you're a little off, next time you can go and fix it. I'm trying to look at it as positive as I can, and I'll be able to work on some stuff a little more often." Burres, a command-and-control specialist, has had problems locating his fastball consistently. And he said that when he's located well, his opponents have taken advantage of the random exception to the rule. All Burres really knows is that he started his season with a 2.49 ERA through April and that he's been trying to regain momentum ever since. "It was looking pretty good and then it's been a little struggle, up and down," he said of his season. "Right now, I wouldn't say disappointing, but I'd like to just make these last couple of months something to be a little more proud of."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.