In his wildest dreams, Corbin Burnes could not have imagined his 2018 season unfolding in this manner.
When the season began, the 23-year-old righthander was a member of the Triple-A Colorado Springs rotation. The Brewers had drafted Burnes, a St. Mary’s product, in the fourth round in 2017 and he was not yet on the 40-man roster.
Then came the news at midseason that Burnes was being moved to the bullpen, with the understanding he could contribute to the big league club should the Brewers be in the thick of the playoff race. As it turned out, somebody must have had a crystal ball.
The Brewers summoned Burnes at midseason, and he made his big league debut on July 10 in Miami by pitching the last two innings of an 8-4 victory. It just got better from there for Burnes, who has the four-pitch repertoire of a starter and thus creates a nightmare matchup for hitters when he comes out of the pen.
Over his last 16 outings, Burnes compiled a 1.25 ERA and allowed just 13 hits in 21.2 innings while logging 17 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .171 average. He pitched twice for a total of four scoreless innings in the National League Division Series against the Rockies.
“This is the stuff you dream about, popping champagne bottles open and dumping it on each other,” Burnes said. “This is why you play baseball. Was it just the way I imagined it? No, but it’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time, so it’s a pretty special feeling.”
Burnes, who still has rookie status, will return to a starting role in 2019 and will be given every opportunity to win a job in the Brewers’ rotation. He has made a strong impression already, both his talent level and ability to remain calm under pressure.
“Since Day One, the thing about Corbin to me is the way he attacks the strike zone,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Guys are going to get hits, but he has just attacked the strike zone relentlessly every time he goes out there.
“That’s a sign of confidence and belief, and also a sign he’s just not going to be intimidated by the big things. And he has shown it every time he has been out there.”