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Burnes finding his groove back in bullpen

Despite relief success, Crew still thinks his future is in rotation
@AdamMcCalvy
May 11, 2019

CHICAGO -- Corbin Burnes has kept the baseball in the yard since returning to the Brewers as a reliever, continuing a run of success in that role he began following a midseason promotion last year. Burnes delivered another big dose of relief during Saturday's 2-1, 15-inning loss to the Cubs,

CHICAGO -- Corbin Burnes has kept the baseball in the yard since returning to the Brewers as a reliever, continuing a run of success in that role he began following a midseason promotion last year.

Burnes delivered another big dose of relief during Saturday's 2-1, 15-inning loss to the Cubs, when he struck out Javier Baez with a pair of runners aboard in a tie game in the eighth inning -- then struck out Albert Almora Jr. with the winning run at first in the ninth to send a rain-soaked game to extra innings. But the vision remains to eventually restore the 24-year-old to the rotation, said pitching coach Chris Hook and manager Craig Counsell.

“I think he’s staying with his strengths,” Hook said. “The fastball down and away has always been really good for him, both to left- and right-hand hitters. I think [Burnes’ brief stint in Triple-A] just calmed him. He’s staying with his strength down and away, and he can go up when he needs to -- but not be up all the time.

“I think he really helps our club where he’s at right now, but I think the long-term plan is for him to be a starter. The stuff is there. The big leagues is a big challenge. For him, right now, maybe it was too much, too soon. But you have to give him an opportunity to do it. I think he’s still going to get back to that point.”

Burnes was bit by the home run ball in his four starts -- allowing 11 of them in 17 2/3 innings, while going 0-2 with a 10.70 ERA and a 1.285 opponents’ OPS. In his first five relief appearances this season, he has allowed no home runs in seven innings. Saturday marked his fourth straight scoreless outing.

Asked whether the goal was to get Burnes back to the front end of games, Counsell said, “That’s a possibility, but the thinking right now is just get outs. I would love for Corbin to be getting 20 outs per game. Right now, we’re asking him to do less a little more often. But we’re definitely not closing any doors for him.”

Most important in the short term is that Burnes feels back to being himself again. When he struck out Baez to strand the go-ahead runner in scoring position in the eighth inning, Burnes let fans on the first-base side of Wrigley Field hear about it by letting out a scream.

“These last few appearances, definitely,” Burnes said this weekend. “Everything has felt better, as far as rhythm and timing go. Fastball command has been better. Slider is still there, so that’s good. I definitely feel like I’m back on track.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.