PORT CHARLOTTE — Burke Badenhop is a movie buff, an admitted "jumble of useless knowledge" and critical thinker.
So it comes as little surprise that when the Rays middle reliever watches films, he learns more from the bad ones and identifies with the off-the-radar actors.
"I'm not the No. 1 starter, not the closer, so you're kind of the in-between guy," the right-hander said. "I relate to a lot of the character actors in pieces, the supporting ones. It's easy to pay attention to the main actors, but the others are … who steal the show sometimes."
Badenhop, 29, is an aspiring screenwriter, but his main focus is auditioning for a role in the Tampa Bay bullpen. Acquired from the Marlins in the offseason, he won't light up the radar gun but is an efficient sinkerballer who was among the best National League relievers last season at inducing ground balls.
He threw two scoreless innings Wednesday against the Yankees, and he boasts a 2.70 spring ERA.
"It's kind of like being a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none type thing," said Badenhop, who also throws a slider and changeup. "I take pride in that. If you look at typical closer stuff, I don't have closer stuff.
"But I still have a valuable something that I'm able to bring to a team, whether that is cleaning up the mess or suck up some innings there. It's kind of like being a glue guy."
Badenhop said his critical-thinking skills come from being an economics major at Bowling Green, where he also starred on the mound. He likes trivia and fantasy football and admits he's the go-to guy in the clubhouse for obscure movie references.
Quipped Badenhop: "I don't know history, don't know politics that well. But when it comes down to who was the second sidekick to Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, who starred in Teen Wolf 2, I can answer those for you."
Badenhop said his interest in making movies comes from watching the bad ones. The worst? Due Date, featuring Robert Downey Jr.
"That was freaking horrible," Badenhop said. "It's one of those like, 'I could do better than this.' "
Badenhop said he and his buddies have put some ideas — and characters — together for a potential comedy and drama but haven't gotten too far. He has been busy with baseball, going 13-15 with a 4.34 ERA (2-3, 4.10 last year) over parts of the past four seasons with the Marlins.
Badenhop allowed just one home run all of last season (63⅔ innings), and his 74.2 percent ground ball percentage ranked sixth among NL relievers.
And he's not a specialist as 13 of his 50 appearances lasted at least two innings. Whenever Badenhop entered a game, the TV announcers said, "Here comes 'The Hopper,' " a nickname given to him by former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Badenhop does have a little hop at the end of his delivery, but he jokes the moniker makes him sound like a fictional character.
"It's like my on-air persona," Badenhop said, smiling. "It's the character I play."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]