Burnes returns to Crew hoping to finish strong

Moustakas out Tuesday; Woodruff ramping up mound work

September 3rd, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- is back from the Brewers’ pitching lab, hoping to end the season on a positive note. The question is whether he will get to pitch.

The team recalled Burnes from Triple-A San Antonio on Tuesday with the priority of continuing the side work he began in Arizona at the Brewers’ state-of-the-art sports science lab. Burnes spent two weeks there under the watchful eye of dozens of cameras and sensors, which gathered data to help answer the question that dominated Burnes’ season: Why did he take such a step back this year?

“It’s nice to get up here and hopefully get a couple innings,” Burnes said. “[I want to] prove to them, like I’ve done myself the last two weeks, that I’m still the same guy, still the same pitcher [who played a prominent bullpen role in 2018]. I’ve just got to go out there and do what I do best.

“If I get the opportunity to be out there, hopefully, I can prove that, end this season on a high note going into the offseason and have something to prove coming into Spring Training.”

Whether Burnes returns next year as a starting pitcher or a reliever is to be determined. The Brewers had lofty expectations for the 24-year-old as a starter this season, but he didn’t meet them, registering a 9.00 ERA in four starts to begin the season and then a 7.94 ERA in 26 relief appearances. Along the way, there were two demotions to the Minor Leagues and one stint on the 10-day injured list with what the team called right shoulder irritation.

When Burnes began August with a pair of starts for San Antonio that saw him allow 15 earned runs over 4 2/3 innings, he made what he called a mutual decision with the team to “hit the reset button” with a trip to the lab at American Fields of Phoenix.

“I haven’t really trusted myself all year as far as who I was as a pitcher,” Burnes said. “Everyone saw what I was able to do last year down the stretch, and I came in this year just trying to do too much, trying to change what I was doing as a starter versus just being the pitcher that I was. We fought it for a good 3-4 months, then it finally got to the point where it was like, ‘We can’t do this anymore. We have to go hit the reset button and get back to what we were doing last year.’”

Part of the puzzle is that much of the advanced data available to the Brewers, including the out-of-this-world spin rate on Burnes’ pitches, was actually better than last year, suggesting his results should have improved this year.

“I think that’s part of the reason why they wanted me to get back into the lab, to see if there is anything mechanical,” he said. “As far as what they saw in the lab and what I saw as far as numbers-wise, basically looked the same as it was [last year]. For me, it’s trusting myself. … For me, I think that was a big thing to be able to get back on track.”

Moustakas still hurting

Third baseman Mike Moustakas returned to the Brewers’ lineup on Monday after missing five starts with a bruised left hand, but he didn’t make it through the game. When Moustakas was removed amid a flurry of changes after the ninth inning, it was because he was hurting.

“We took Moose out of the game because he was injured,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There was just too much pain swinging the bat to keep going. I wouldn't call it a re-aggravation, he's just sore still. The swing was just bothering him too much, so we're going to stay away from him today. [Wednesday] is an off-day, and we'll reassess him on Thursday. Just where the bruise is ... it's just bothering him pretty significantly on the swing to the point he's a no-go.”

The Brewers also planned to stay away from Lorenzo Cain on Tuesday as he continues to battle a bruised left knee. Like Moustakas, he will be re-assessed on Thursday, when the Brewers begin a critical four-game series against the Cubs.

Last call

• There’s some light at the end of the rehab tunnel for right-hander Brandon Woodruff, whose next bullpen session is tentatively scheduled for Thursday. If that goes well, he will throw another that simulates multiple innings. After that, he would face hitters. After that, he could be ready to pitch a couple of innings for the Brewers.

“There's light, for sure,” Counsell said. “We got him on the mound [Monday] with effort. He was more concerned with the quality of his pitches than the injury. That's progress. That's a great step. Now we just have to build up arm strength and time on the mound.”

• The Tigers claimed Minor League outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. off waivers on Tuesday, two days after the Brewers designated him for assignment to clear 40-man roster spots for September callups. Stokes was No. 20 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects after hitting 20 home runs in 2017 and 19 in '18, but he slipped to nine homers and was limited to 95 games in 2019, in part because of an early-season lat injury.

“I think more than anything, [it was] just the challenging transition to Triple-A,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “It’s a different league, more mature pitchers, significantly less predictable pitchers.”

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.