5 years after MLB debut, he gets his first hit

Infielder Burns later makes pitching debut in ninth inning

June 13th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- remembers everything about his six at-bats as a member of the Blue Jays in 2016. He remembers the dates, the opponents, and can tell you the pitch sequences that were executed in each of those trips to the plate.

Burns has had plenty of time to think about those plate appearances, as Saturday was his first time suiting up for a big league game in nearly five years. He expected to have more Major League at-bats, but his journey turned out to be different than he originally thought.

The 30-year-old infielder played two seasons for the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization. He then returned to the United States to play at Triple-A in the Blue Jays’ organization in 2019 and spent the ‘20 season on Toronto’s roster at the alternate training site. Burns even spent a couple of months in Australia, just to get more at-bats.

This offseason, Burns signed with the Dodgers on a Minor League contract. He made the Dodgers notice him by hitting .330 this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. And when Max Muncy went down with a right oblique injury during Friday’s game, the Dodgers knew they had to make a decision.

On Saturday, all of Burns’ hard work and long travels finally paid off. He was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster and was the starting second baseman in the 12-1 loss to the Rangers on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

“It’s been a five-year journey to get back to this point,” Burns said before Saturday’s game. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears and challenges. To see it come full circle is really special.”

To make the day even better for Burns, when he remembers his seventh at-bat at the big league level, it’ll be a much more pleasant memory than the previous six he’s been thinking about for the last five years. In his first at-bat with the Dodgers, Burns hit a dribbler to shortstop, but it wasn’t handled by Isiah Kiner-Falefa. It was going to be a tough play even if it had been fielded cleanly, though, which is why it was ruled a hit.

As he sprinted past first, Burns turned around and had a huge smile on his face. It’s been a tough road for Burns, but he was able to experience a special moment with his wife and newborn daughter, who were both in attendance on Saturday.

“Nothing in this game is ever given to you and you have to earn everything,” Burns said. “Throughout the last five years, just putting in the work every single day and knowing that this is what you’re striving to do. To accomplish that is great, but there’s more that I want to accomplish as well.”

In the ninth, Burns got to make even more memories. With the game out of hand, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts walked out to the mound to make a pitching change. What Burns didn’t know was that he was going to be asked to take the ball.

Burns allowed two runs on three hits, but struck out pitcher Josh Sborz to end the inning. He became the first position player in the expansion era to pitch in a game where he recorded his first big league hit.

“I asked him if he wanted to make history,” Roberts told Burns. “He said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

It’ll be a night Burns will remember for a long time.