Burnes to try to fix gopher ball issues in Minors

'I think it's a good move for the team,' young pitcher says

April 19th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers decided Friday that Triple-A San Antonio was the best place for right-hander to solve his trouble with the long ball.

The team optioned Burnes and reliever to San Antonio while recalling left-handed reliever and reinstating veteran reliever from the paternity list ahead of Friday night's game against the Dodgers at Miller Park.

Burnes surrendered 11 home runs in his first four starts, including two in 3 1/3 innings during his most recent outing, Wednesday against the Cardinals. The Brewers now need two replacements in their upcoming starting rotation. They plan to use in-house arms, including , to cover Saturday’s game against the Dodgers in place of the injured , and they are likely to promote a pitcher from the Minors for Burnes’ spot on Monday in St. Louis against the Cardinals.

One option is , the Missions’ Opening Day starter and Milwaukee's No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He was a healthy scratch from a start for San Antonio originally scheduled for Friday.

“You know, I think it’s a good move for the team,” Burnes said. “You have to have the best guys who will help you win games. Right now, I haven’t done that. But we have a good plan together. I’m going to go down to San Antonio, make two or three starts and try to get this back on track.”

His mission with the Missions is two-pronged: Getting back to basics to better locate the fastball, and doing a better job of changing speeds by incorporating more curveballs and changeups. Ten of the 11 home runs in Burnes’ first 14 2/3 innings as a big league starter came off fastballs, nine off four-seam fastballs.

“Obviously, going down is tough for anyone, especially when you get here and you get a taste of it and you know you can have success here,” Burnes said. “For me, it’s just going down and refocusing. I have full confidence in myself. I’m a competitor. It’s not a matter of finding the confidence again.”

The Brewers had three options: Leave Burnes in the big league rotation, shift him to a bullpen that covered more than 44 percent of the team’s innings in the first 20 games or send him to the Minors to remain on a regular rotation.

They believe he’s most valuable this year and beyond as a starter, so the bullpen was out. Leaving him in the Major League rotation would have meant yet another start on Monday night against the Cardinals, who have already hit five home runs off Burnes in two starts.

So, officials chose the Triple-A route.

“We really believe that we can get past this and he can get through this and he can help us as a starter, and be a starter in the big leagues for a long time,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I anticipate it being a short stint down there, and be up here quickly and starting games again.

“As far as the bullpen, look, he’s three years into professional baseball. … Switching him back and forth, it’s not the right thing to do. And at this point in the season, it’s not the right thing to do. So we thought it best that we keep him on a schedule.”

Count Anderson among those hoping to see Burnes back soon. His own trouble with the long ball last season contributed to him opening this year in the bullpen.

“We all know the stuff he has,” Anderson said. “He never had those growing pains in the Minor Leagues. I was in the Minor Leagues for 4 1/2 years, and I finally got called up. He can definitely be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher with the stuff that he has. It’s just learning to throw pitches in the right spots, throw your offspeed for strikes when you need to.

“It’s tough, man. Being a big league starter is hard. I feel for him, I do. I know how much he meant to this team last year and what he’s going to mean in the future. Hopefully, he’s back sooner rather than later.”