Brewers’ Burnes needs to expand pitch repertoire

By DAN ZIELINSKI

The Brewers had high hopes for right-hander Corbin Burnes entering this season.

After he dominated opposing batters in a relief role in his first major league season last year, Burnes was expected to provide a similar impact in the starting rotation this season.

That plan quickly faded. After four disastrous starts to begin the season, the Brewers demoted the 24-year-old hurler to Triple-A.

Inconsistent command and an inability to throw quality secondary pitches led to a 10.70 ERA with 24 strike outs, eight walks allowed and 11 home runs surrendered in 17 2/3 innings as a starter.

It wasn’t the success the Brewers witnessed last season when he was a valuable commodity as a multi-inning reliever during their playoff run. He posted a 2.61 ERA with 35 strike outs while allowing 11 walks and four home runs in 38 innings.

In both seasons, Burnes has been a two-pitch pitcher. Although that can work in short appearances, that typically doesn’t lead to success as a starter.

He’s relied heavily on his fastball and slider while rarely throwing his curveball and split-finger fastball this season. He’s thrown 66.1 percent fastballs and 23.4 percent sliders.

Burnes also has struggled with his fastball command this season, which is a major reason he has allowed double-digit home runs.

If Burnes ever wants to have success as a starting pitcher, he needs to develop an above-average third offering. Otherwise, he has no chance at being a starter, even if he does refine his command. 

Using Burnes as a reliever is a shortsighted move. He needs additional work on his pitches and command, but the Brewers need to view him as a starter long term. He has too much talent and potential to be a reliever, especially for an organization which has always struggled to develop quality starting pitching.

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