Burnes goes 'offline' at Crew's pitching lab

In tough season, righty reports to technology-packed facility

August 20th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers have temporarily taken right-hander “offline” in the Minor Leagues in an effort to find new answers for his season-long struggles.

Burnes was transferred from Triple-A San Antonio to Double-A Biloxi last Tuesday, but he actually traveled to American Family Fields of Phoenix to work in the Brewers’ state-of-the-art pitching lab. The facility was still under construction during Spring Training but is now fully functional, said Karl Mueller, the Brewers' senior vice president of player personnel.

The expectation is that Burnes will return to the mound in the Minors before season’s end.

“He’s a guy we definitely believe in,” Mueller said. “The stuff is as good as anybody we have here, even. Sometimes, it just helps to give a guy a breather, take a break, go offline and work on different things to help him get back to where he wants to be.”

Burnes, who was Milwaukee’s No. 2 pitching prospect before thriving in a relief role during the second half of last season and through the postseason, began 2019 as the Brewers’ No. 4 starter. But he surrendered 11 homers in his first four starts and was demoted to the Minors, beginning a series of ups and downs that saw Burnes continue to struggle in a relief role and ultimately go to the injured list on July 15 with right shoulder irritation. He was tagged for 15 earned runs and 17 hits over 4 2/3 innings in consecutive starts for San Antonio on Aug. 5 and 10, prompting the timeout.

A number of other pitchers -- including rehabbing Brent Suter, prospect Phil Bickford and Minor League pickups Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller -- have been sent this summer to the technology-packed lab, which was off-limits to outsiders when the facility was bustling in spring.

“While we’re not going to share that space publicly, all we’re trying to do is create a controlled environment to help train our athletes, to help our athletes understand their body movements better,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said in February while the space was still being built. “It’s a contained space for us to work with some of the newer technologies out there, and those are going to change and move, probably on an annual basis.”

Said Mueller: “I think our guys are looking at it as it’s not a punishment. It’s maintenance. You know what I mean? It’s a way to get away from that competitive environment and work on things in a manner where they don’t have to have everyone looking at them. They can experiment. I think that’s what the good thing is more than anything -- they can experiment and try to find [answers].”