"The last day of spring training when [Mets manager Terry Collins] brought me in and said I made the team, it was an awesome feeling," Burke said after Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Padres at Citi Field.
"I was getting older, throwing 90 m.p.h., and everybody does that. I needed to do something extreme," the 30-year-old said.
That's also the way to describe Burke's new pitches, which have a much different movement than with his previous style.
"It's a funky, weird arm angle, and the way his body moves is very deceptive," Mets catcher John Buck said. "I still have to lock in when I catch him."
Burke gives much credit for his resurgence to Rick Peterson, the Baltimore Orioles director of pitching development and a former pitching coach with the A's, Mets, and Brewers. Jim Ulrich, Burke's agent, shared a mutual friend with Peterson, and a meeting was arranged in November 2011 in Cherry Hill.
Peterson is known for his high-tech methods of training pitchers. He is a founder of 3P Sports, a company that analyzes pitchers' motions through biomechanical analysis, using high-speed cameras and computers.
In 2012, Burke received a minor-league invitation to spring training from the Orioles, but he didn't earn an offer to stay at the conclusion. So he told Peterson he was thinking of using a submarine motion, and the two worked out before Burke was to return home to Medford, where he lives with his wife, Megan, also a Gloucester Catholic graduate, and 18-month-old son, C.J.
"He was 20 pitches into [the workout], and I said, 'You have got to be kidding me,' " Peterson said. "He was throwing 91, 92 m.p.h., and I never saw somebody throw as hard at that angle."
After Peterson helped Burke refine the submarine technique, the Orioles gave Burke another look.
"He was going to get on a plane to New Jersey and instead now had a ticket eventually to the big leagues," Peterson said.
Burke was dominating for double-A Bowie and triple-A Norfolk last year, posting an identical 1.53 ERA for both teams. At the end of the season, he was a free agent who didn't lack offers.
"He was the first guy we tried to sign, because of the ground-ball factor in Coors Field," said Colorado Rockies scout Will George, a Pennsauken High graduate who has known Burke since before Burke was a teenager.
"He is a great kid who has persevered, and that tells you a lot about what is inside him."
A 2005 graduate of Duke, Burke began his career in independent baseball with the now defunct Atlantic City Surf.
"It has been really tough for me, and I didn't think I would get back [to the majors], which is why I made the change," Burke said.
"When you get here, it is worth every minor-league bus ride and hotel, and it's just a great feeling."
Contact Marc Narducci at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @sjnard.