Image credit: Corbin Burnes (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Could that mean a spot in the Milwaukee Brewers’ starting rotation?
Barnes, 24, a hard-throwing right-hander in the back of the bullpen, is vying for a spot after splashing onto the scene in July 2018. In his 30 regular season games, he held opposing hitters to a .199 batting average and struck out 35 of his 152 batters faced.
“As a whole, it was a good year and I was definitely proud of the way I performed and handled the adversity up there as well,” Burnes said Monday at the Brewers’ newly renovated American Family Fields of Phoenix.
His strong showing in the second half earned him a spot on the postseason roster, making six appearances throughout the NLDS and NLCS rounds.
“Looking back at the run we had in September and into the postseason, it was pretty special being that close to the World Series,” he said. “It definitely gave us a little bit extra hunger going into the offseason.”
In the postseason against the Rockies and Dodgers, Burnes struck out 11 and kept hitters to a .138 average in just nine innings of work.
It was an ego boost.
“Pitching in the postseason for anyone is a huge confidence builder and gives you a little experience for that next season and the next time you’re in the postseason,” he said. “To be a part of that bullpen with (Josh) Hader, Corey (Knebel), J.J. (Jeremy Jeffress), that lethal back end, it just makes everyone better out there.”
He called his first postseason experience “second to none, something that will definitely help for years to come.”
He also knows there is work to do.
“There are a couple aspects of the game I am working on. Last year coming out of the bullpen I had mainly a fastball, slider approach and mixing in a couple curveballs,” he said. “So getting all the pitches back and getting to work with (catcher Yasmani) Grandal about different sequencing and how we are going to attack hitters.”
Throughout his time in the minors, Burnes has been a starter. Once he was called up to the big league club mid-season in 2018 he came out of the bullpen.
Burnes’ approach in spring training is to prepare as a starter. The approach will not be unfamiliar to him.
“I basically took the same approach into this offseason as far as getting ready,” he said. “Every spring training I have come into preparing as a starter, so offseason has been the same as far as throwing program and working out.”
Stephen Perez is a senior majoring in sports journalism at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between Baseball America and Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.