MILWAUKEE -- Corbin Burnes’ two-week stint on the injured list was for an asymptomatic case of COVID-19, the right-hander confirmed on the eve of his return to the Brewers' starting rotation.
Burnes is scheduled to face Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. CT at American Family Field in the Brewers’ first game this season being televised exclusively on YouTube. He will take the mound on 16 days’ rest with a 1.53 ERA and 49 strikeouts, two strikeouts shy of matching the all-time record for a pitcher who has yet to issue a single walk.
What is Burnes’ level of concern about rust?
"None,” he said. “I threw a good bullpen Monday, everything felt good. I've been able to throw all my pitches and keep the arm moving, keep up the cardio, keep the body in shape. It's business as normal. Just missed two starts and now we're back in it."
Burnes’ status had been shrouded in some mystery since the team placed him generically on the injured list April 29 because he elected not to authorize club officials to discuss the reason. The clues were there about a connection to MLB’s COVID-19 protocols, but until Burnes discussed the past two weeks on Wednesday, it was not known whether he had symptoms from the virus.
Because he didn’t have any symptoms, Burnes said that he initially thought it was a false positive, similar to the Brewers’ scare the day before Opening Day. Subsequent testing, however, confirmed the result.
"Since I was asymptomatic, I was able to do physical activity without any restrictions,” he said. “I had some weights at the apartment, so I was able to do some workouts on the floor. And I had my wife's Peloton here, so I was able to do some big conditioning workouts and keep the cardio in shape. There's a little grass field right outside our apartment complex and I had a net. I was fortunate to have some balls and stuff with me from the offseason, so I was able to throw into a net every day and do everything in my power to keep the arm, keep the body ready.”
Burnes, who indicated that he elected not to get inoculated against COVID-19 “for personal reasons,” said that he felt fortunate that the team got through contact tracing with no further positives. During his absence, the team surpassed 85 percent of its Tier 1 personnel vaccinated.
“It’s great now that the team’s at 85 percent and we can relax a lot of the protocols,” Burnes said. “We’re trying to get back to normal just like everybody else is.”
The Brewers lost both of the games that Burnes would have started. Now, he’s ready to resume a bid for history.
“It’s hard to quantify when you get a co-ace, one of your studs back, who’s been doing it for us all year,” said teammate Brent Suter. “We missed him dearly.”
Said Burnes: “For me, I look at it as it's just another challenge to overcome. It's going to be more mental than physical. My body feels great, arm feels great. So it's about going out there and sticking to the routines. This is stuff that when you're going through the mental process I went through, these are things you prepare for.”
Thursday’s YouTube broadcast will feature MLB's Scott Braun, Matt Holliday and former Brewers closer Dan Plesac on the call, with Jon Morosi reporting from American Family Field.
Braun still happy at home
Left fielder Christian Yelich remains on the injured list and Brewers first basemen entered Wednesday last in the National League in slugging percentage (.356), with Keston Hiura demoted to Triple-A. But if you’re thinking that Ryan Braun might come out of his quasi-retirement to the rescue, you may want to think again.
He sounds very happy at home in Malibu, Calif., with his wife and three children.
“I couldn’t imagine being happier or enjoying life more,” Braun told the Los Angeles Times this week in a story about the latest fundraising endeavor of “California Strong,” the foundation co-founded by Braun, Yelich, former Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas and Mike Attanasio, the son of Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.
Aside from a friendly visit to Brewers camp during Spring Training, Braun has been enjoying time on the beach and tending to various business endeavors; he told the newspaper that he does not see that changing -- even though both Team USA and Team Israel reached out to gauge his interest in playing in the upcoming Olympics.
“I’m strongly leaning toward being done with baseball, but I have not officially made my mind up yet,” Braun told the Times. “I don’t currently have interest in playing, but I just feel like you could always push that decision back. You never know where life will take you.
“It’s mostly enjoying the family, enjoying the kids and putting off that decision until I’m sure about it.”
• Outfielder Avisaíl García returned to the lineup Wednesday after two games on the bench while getting treatment for a stiff back. Manager Craig Counsell described Garcia’s condition succinctly: “He’s got a back issue, but he’s doing better.”
• Back from the bereavement list, Suter said that he felt bad for having to depart his spot start against the Marlins last week with an issue as minor as his right calf cramping. He’s fine now, he said.
“I’m the new guy in town, but I’m honored to be a part of this annual effort to impact our community,” Bradley said in a Zoom that included the owners of one of the local restaurants, La Salsa’s. “Restaurants have been impacted so severely throughout this past year, and our hope is through this effort to bring awareness to some of the restaurants and support the nonprofits that are making an impact.”