Burrows makes fast rise to Pirates' 40-man

'Over the course of a year, it was Fall League to Double-A to the Futures Game to Triple-A'

December 2nd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Burrows looked around the clubhouse at PNC Park, looking left, looking right, and let out a wry smile. A classic, white home jersey donning his name was lying on the chair behind him. With the offseason in full swing, every locker was completely empty, save a handful of white hangers. Burrows examined the slate of blank canvases. He envisioned the possibilities.

“Even though I’ve been here two other times before, knowing this is your organization’s ballpark and walking in and coming into the clubhouse, it’s like, ‘Wow,’” the 23-year-old right-hander said. “It’s really cool to see a stadium and almost be consumed by it. It’s an awesome field to be on.”

Burrows, the Pirates’ No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is on the doorstep of transforming PNC Park into his office in the coming months.

In early November, the Pirates added Burrows to the 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. He will likely begin 2023 with Triple-A Indianapolis, but by summertime, Burrows could earn his first Major League callup and inherit a locker to call his own.

“It was an honor to see my name on a Major League roster,” Burrows said. “I think that was really cool. Hearing [general manager] Ben [Cherington] call me and letting me know that, it’s one of those surreal experiences. It’s just another step in the journey where you’re kind of like, ‘Wow, we’re here now. We’ve made that extra step.’ There’s going to be many more, but it was a good one to hear.”

“From what I hear about Burrows and what I hear about [top pitching prospect] Quinn [Priester], it’s electric stuff that’s coming up,” said.

Burrows’ arrival to this point wasn’t gift-wrapped. An 11th-round selection out of Waterford High School in Connecticut in the 2018 Draft, Burrows wasn’t initially considered one of Pittsburgh’s top prospects. In 2019, his first full season, Burrows enticed with his ability to generate spin and miss bats, but his walk rate (4.12 per 9 IP) was an area of concern. But two years later, Burrows began turning heads.

The Pirates assigned Burrows to High-A Greensboro, skipping Single-A Bradenton after the cancellation of the Minor League season in 2020. Across 49 innings, Burrows posted a 2.20 ERA with 66 strikeouts (12.12 K/9), a performance that landed him a spot in the Arizona Fall League for rising prospects.

Burrows began this past season with Double-A Altoona but earned a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis by mid-June. Several weeks later, Burrows represented the Pirates at the Futures Game, tossing a scoreless inning at Dodger Stadium.

“It has been crazy,” Burrows said. “I look back on it and over the course of a year, it was Fall League to Double-A to the Futures Game to Triple-A. It’s a lot of stuff. It was a lot of accomplishments, and it’s a really cool thing to look back on, but again, those were all steps. The next step was being on the 40-man, and now the goal this year is to get that [callup].”

The right-hander was on pace to potentially receive a big league cup of coffee in September, but a right shoulder injury sidelined him for two months. He says he used the injury as a learning experience, examining what factors may have contributed and subsequently making adjustments to avoid missing more time. While the injury robbed him of most of his summer, Burrows says he feels great now, fully immersed in his offseason work.

Burrows has visited PNC Park only a handful of times -- three to be exact. Each time he enters the cathedral, he imagines the future that might be awaiting him. By summertime, Burrows may no longer have to imagine.