CLEVELAND -- So many thoughts ran through Tanner Burns’ head when he heard his name called in the Competitive Balance Round A during 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday night. He thought about the amount of money his parents have spent on travel ball teams, the time his family invested attending
CLEVELAND -- So many thoughts ran through Tanner Burns’ head when he heard his name called in the Competitive Balance Round A during 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday night. He thought about the amount of money his parents have spent on travel ball teams, the time his family invested attending his games and all the sacrifices they made for his dream to finally come true.
“It was one of those things where I felt like I had like a 10-pound vest on and I could take it off when my name got called,” Burns said. “I'm just fortunate and blessed that the Indians called me. It was a very exciting night.”
Burns is a right-handed starter, who was the Friday night starter at Auburn University. His fastball sits around 92-93 mph, but he’s touched 96 mph. He has two breaking balls that have the ability to miss bats and he became one of just two Auburn pitchers over the past 20 seasons to fan at least 100 batters in a season (101).
At the end of his sophomore campaign in 2019, Burns felt some tightness in his shoulder, causing him to miss a start last May and limited him during his team’s playoff run. But if there were any concerns that this would be a lingering issue, Burns is confident he found the answer to prevent this from reoccurring.
“I always firmly believe everything happens for a reason,” Burns said. “I found out I was dehydrated. My muscles were tensing up and that's what caused me to be fatigued. But yeah, during this time, I've learned how to take care of my body more, nutrition, what I'm eating, hydrating, I'm staying hydrated between my starts, sleep recovery, putting things into my body to make me recover faster. I always feel like everything happens for a reason.”
Burns entered the 2020 season on the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list and as a preseason All-SEC Team member, but his season was cancelled after he went 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings. Then, all attention was shifted to the Draft.
Luckily for him, he had a few people who have already gone through this process in his corner. One of them being the first overall pick in 2018, Casey Mize. Burns and Mize were a dominant duo in Auburn’s rotation. In Burns’ freshman year, he ranked second on the team behind Mize in innings (86 2/3), strikeouts (77) and wins (seven), while posting a 3.01 ERA, and Mize was the only other pitcher in the last 20 years to also eclipse 100 strikeouts in a season.
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“I tell people, Casey Mize is a better person than he is a baseball player, which says a lot about him,” Burns said. “My freshman year, he took me under his wing. He said, 'This is what you need to do to have success.' I took that to heart because I wanted to be in the weekend rotation my freshman year.
“He's the one that put me on the routine of sleep, nutrition, weights in the weight room. He had a big impact on my life my freshman year. I've had the same routine since my freshman year. We're good friends. He even invited me to his wedding. We have a relationship that he'll be my best friend probably for the rest of my life.”
Along with Mize’s advice, Burns was also able to pick the brain of former big leaguer Tim Hudson -- if only for a few months -- after he was hired as Auburn’s pitching coach in January.
“If you pitch 17 years in the big leagues, you know what you're doing,” Burns said. “And I was just mainly trying to focus on what I could do that he did, and trying to be better at it. … Just things he thinks about pitching and certain counts, how to attack hitters, a lefty and a righty, a guy in the top lower than on the bottom of the order.”
All the advice paid off on Wednesday when Burns was selected by the Indians with the 36th overall pick. A few teams had been in contact with the righty leading up to the Draft, but he had the best feeling about his conversations with the Tribe. And while he may not have known everything about the organization before the discussions, it didn’t take him long to feel like they were a perfect match.
“I found out, they're really good [at drafting] pitchers,” Burns said. "You know, you don't see the Indians going out and buying players. They must be doing something right in seeing guys they draft and getting them to the big leagues. … I feel like I'm very blessed of being in a program like Auburn and then getting drafted by Cleveland. They're good at developing pitchers and, you know, they're trying to get into the big leagues.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.